Do we need an ‘Institute for Youth Work’ and who gets to decide what it does? At the moment, it’s certainly not you and I.
Children & Young People Now reported last week (registration required) that ‘A consortium of youth organisations is exploring the creation of an independent body to provide youth workers with a strong voice and set standards across the sector… The body has been given the provisional title of the Institute for Youth Work and would champion the role of a broad range of professionals and volunteers working with young people.’
OK, I’m with it so far. An independent body to speak up for workers sounds like a good idea. So how does it work?
The consortium mentioned is called Catalyst, and is made up ofÂ the National Youth Agency (NYA),Â National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), the Social Enterprise Coalition and the Young Foundation, with FPM (a training provider) also supporting the idea.Â Catalyst was awarded Â£2.6m in February by the Department for Education (DfE) and the money to set upÂ the institute will come from this grant.
Right. So by independent, we mean a group of self-appointed organisations supported by the government. Not my first choice, and I get no say anyway.
Even more surprisingly, it seems the Institute might include a register of youth workers and set standards and ethics for the discipline. It could also lead to a licence to practice where workers could be struck off for malpractice.
Hang on a minute! So I’ll need to register to this Institute (who I didn’t get to vote for or choose), just so they can tell me the standards and ethics I should adopt and tell me off if I break them? How does one become a member of this brilliant organisation?
The institute would rely on individual workers paying an annual membership fee… Membership would potentially be open not only to professionally qualified youth workers and youth work volunteers, but also to staff in the field of information, advice and guidance, youth justice and others working with young people.
Amazingly I have to pay to be a part of it! We’ve heard all this before. I previously wrote about the NYA’s move towards registration in an article for Youth Work Now here.
Earlier this year, the NYA committed Â£30,000 to explore the feasibility of a voluntary register and discovered â€œconsiderable support among key stakeholder groups and individuals for a registration schemeâ€.Â The agency obviously didnâ€™t ask me.
After some exploration of who will benefit from the scheme, I came to the conclusion:
So if it wonâ€™t directly benefit young people, what exactly is it for? If, as the NYA claims, there is demand for a registration scheme then it can only be about professionals wanting further recognition for their work. This may be a fair request given the breadth and diversity of the youth work sector, yet it would potentially be very damaging.
It seems my concerns are not alone. At the end of the CYPNow article last week, it quotesÂ Doug Nicholls, (national officer at Unite) who has some stern criticism of the move:
â€œIt appears that organisations with vested interests in the privatisation of public services have taken an initiative without the support of the profession or any consultation with youth workers,â€ he said. â€œIt is likely that this could well be yet another money-spinner for cash-strapped organisations. The registration of workers and setting of standards is far too important to be left to unrepresentative bodies.â€
I also note that Tony Taylor of the In Defence of Youth Work campaign has picked up on this and is asking similar valid questions about the motives here.
So what do you think?
Is an Institute for Youth Work a good thing? Is it right that a group of organisations can set themselves up to speak on behalf of youth workers and set standards for the field? Is a registration scheme for workers a good idea?
Share your thoughts in the comments.