I’ve been aware for some time of various government incentives to try and track young people through their involvement in statutory agencies. I know of colleagues in Westminster who carry around barcode scanners to record and identify each young person they come into contact with so they can track their progress. This drive towards accreditation and outcomes in ‘professional’ youth work is a personal lament of mine as it goes against the very values inherent in the discipline.
Yet chatting with my uni colleagues on Thursday, I was shocked to hear a youth work professional admitting that they actively dissuade their own children from giving any information to youth workers! This is because in their particular borough, all interactions from various agencies are recorded onto a single database and over time build up a raft of information, creating a profile of that particular individual.
While there may be legitimate uses for this data, what is happening is that the records are never removed and so any interaction with the police, social services, schools etc. are permanently visible to the professionals who access the system regardless of whether a young person has reformed, changed, grown, or otherwise developed from when those interactions occurred.
A young person who is stopped by the police for being drunk one friday night, or who popped into an information shop to get advice on contraception, may find that information available to their doctor or teacher or social worker years later!
This is one of the reasons that I am grateful to be working for a voluntary agency: I am not required to work towards targets, figures and recorded outcomes.
So be careful out there… don’t talk to youth workers!