Institute Update – More Info on Plans for Youth Work Sector

19 May 2011 — 8 Comments

building the youth work sector?

Last Thursday I met with the lovely Diane Evans, National Programme Manager at the National Youth Agency (NYA). Diane had kindly responded to my critical blog post on an Institute for Youth Work, and we met up to discuss where this idea had got to and what it might mean for youth workers.

A bit of background

Children & Young People Now had reported on a consortium of youth organisations exploring the creation of an independent body to provide youth workers with a voice and set of standards across the sector with the provisional title of the Institute for Youth Work. I blogged my thoughts on it here, which prompted a number of responses in the comments on that post.

As I understand it, the idea for an institute arose a few years ago and was broached in some research by the NYA (which I commented on here). Certainly the idea of an independent national body for youth work has been floating around for some time with support from a number of people within the field.

It is probably fair to say that this time around, the Institute idea got some bad feedback from those of us critical of the agenda, and the way the story broke didn’t help matters. Apparently Children & Young People Now ran the story before details of the grant had been finalised with the DfE, so the NYA and partners were unable to officially comment on what was actually happening.

The detail

In our discussion Diane explained that ‘Catalyst’, the consortium who received £2.6 from the Department for Education as strategic partner for young people, had three strands to their grant. Of those strands, one is around ‘Workforce Development’ and a small element of that is to explore the feasibility of some kind of youth work institute. From the NCVYS Workforce Development Snippet – April ’11:

As part of the Catalyst’s workforce development strand, there will be an opportunity to explore the possibilities for developing an Institute for Youth Work. This opportunity has been discussed in the sector for a number of years and would be intended to provide a strong voice for the sector and those individuals within it. Early discussions between the Catalyst consortium and the sector have concluded that the plan for an Institute would require it to work in harmony with existing structures and bodies, and serve to secure a coherent framework for a wide range of practitioners, enabling them to contribute to the setting of standards for the sector. The establishment of an Institute for Youth Work would develop much needed infrastructure at a time when other structures and environment are rapidly changing or being dismantled.

Diane was keen to point out that none of the grant is to actually create or start that institute, but simply to explore what it could become. That is important if the body is to be independent and not supported by the government. The other part of the story in CYPNow that concerned me was the talk of paid voluntary registration for youth workers to affiliate with the Institute. Diane explained that this has been proposed as a possibility; a way for workers to self identify with the values and standards that could be promoted by the institute, and a way of making it financially viable. The income from registration could sustain the institute and work to maintain it as an independent body. However this has not yet been decided and will be part of the consultation.

So where does that leave us? Is this all going ahead?

Basically, yes! It’s very likely that some organisation will be formed from all this and that it will work around and with existing standards and organisations (such as the JNC framework and the unions) trying to tie it all together. There is a strong desire from many in the sector, and with a grant to research how it would can work, something will happen. The plan now is that Catalyst will do a wide-ranging consultation among practitioners, managers and agencies to find out what people think of the Institute idea and how it could be viable. I’m told this consultation will include digital and social media methods, so look out for news on that and be ready to have your say about what you think the Institute should be or do. The consultation will serve to inform a panel of individuals and agencies who represent all aspects of the youth sector to how they might move things forward.

My take

Overall, I would say I’m cautiously optimistic. I can see the value an Institute might hold for workers, however the devil is in the details and I’m wary of creating something that just gives workers an ego boost (however much that might be tempting). Whatever happens must ultimately be driven by the needs of young people. I’m looking forward to the consultation and feeding into what is a very important and timely discussion. It is a unique opportunity to positively affect national youth work practice that we might not get again, so for that reason, I would encourage everyone to engage in the debate.

I also need to thank Diane for her gracious and helpful discussion. 🙂

So what do you think now? Have you changed your opinion? Leave a comment!


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

8 responses to Institute Update – More Info on Plans for Youth Work Sector

  1. I have just re-read the comments on the linked posts and I think the questions put by Dean about who sits around the table and whether space is made for others are completely relevant.

    Just for an example, I have been working to create a voluntary sector group to take over universal generic youth provision in my local area. In developing the community consortium I have met with a number of people. One of our partners I started pursuing last September, we finally spoke for the first time in December, we met in January and I got to one of their meetings in February. It was April before the whole membership of that organisation had met and agreed to support us.

    That kind of timescale exists for volunteer groups simply because meetings may be monthly/bimonthly/quarterly and the people involved have full-time jobs and other interests.

    Now put that into the context of volunteers at youth clubs. It could take up to a year to inform and involve groups locally, and their members may change in that time so the process is ongoing. Yet people who run Institutes with government money work full-time at these posts and find it difficult to work with these sorts of time constraints.

    For me making sure that all these people can get to sit at the table or that those who are there make provision for them and actively involve them is the key.

    Trouble is, with all this online communication professional bodies will have circulated 100’s of daily bulletins and emails before voluntary workers can even get to respond. Not only do we work in a world where those with access to the internet have advantages over those who do not – but also one where those who can pursue developments full-time have significant influence over those who can only do it in their spare time.

    • Very good points Chris which I sincerely hope the consortium take into account during the consultation. I don’t think the plan is to solely use online methods, but you are absolutely right about the time scale and reach of voluntary groups.

      I guess in theory National bodies like NCVYS (part of the consortium) should be advocating and communicating on behalf of these groups. I’m not sure if that happens in practice though.

      • Jon/Chris

        Hi, I would be very reticent to assume anything or guess. These things in my experience only happen if people are intentional. Sometimes, it is a case that people are seen to be doing something to make something work, irrespective of whether it is right or not.

        There is an opportunity for this to start well if the start-up team is identified and consultation is consultation.

        Umbrella organisations will always have the problem in drilling down and being connected to grassroots. I have a great respect for NCVYS but we might need to be realistic of what can be delivered realistically. Not everyone is part of NCVYS or even part of local CVYS so we are going to have to be strategic.

        Jon, extremely good you have taken on the initiative and have access. However, now make the relationship count and invite a few others with you to meet Diane in your youthwork circle of influence. This would give a wider scope maybe.

        This thing needs to be not only structural in approach, but organic.

        Just a thought.

        • If you want to take someone with you Jon I can suggest a local youth worker here who is based in the voluntary sector.

          • Hi Dean, that sounds like a direct challenge to me! 🙂

            You are right of course, I do not hold the opinion for the voluntary or faith sector and need to widen the amount voices able to be heard. At this stage, I have not agreed any further meetings or communication with Diane or the NYA, so I’m not sure how this will happen. I will commit though that any further input will have additional representation.

            Chris, thanks! If it comes to another meeting, I’ll be in touch. BTW, I’m interested in how you’re getting on. Email me!

  2. I saw this today on the Being Ministry feed. Perhaps this post doesn’t quite connect with this subject but it is the idea that relationships that are measured and timed are not truly about the person and their needs.

  3. Maybe I am seeing connections where there aren’t any – but I liked this post from

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