Expert challenges youth workforce's commitment to protecting services

By Laura McCardle

| 04 April 2014

Youth workers must do more to promote the value of their work in the face of local government cuts, an academic has said.

Jason Pandya-Wood is concerned about the impact of youth service cuts on young people.

Jason Pandya-Wood, head of sociology at Nottingham Trent University and himself a former youth worker, fears that youth workers are partly to blame for the widespread streamlining of services.

He said that they have not done enough to promote the importance of their services in a bid to protect them from swingeing local government cuts.

Pandya-Wood said: “Local authorities don’t have a strong enough statutory basis for youth work.

“I don’t think they are cutting services maliciously – if you’re asked to cut 30 per cent of your budget, you’re going to go to something that isn’t as strong.

“I’m being self-critical, but I don’t think youth workers have done nearly enough to stand up for what youth work can be about, what it does for young people and why it should be protected.”

He is also concerned that local authorities are failing to consider the wellbeing of young people before reducing services and fears the removal of support will have a detrimental impact on their future.

“We’re talking about the wellbeing of a particular group of young people and we’re underserving them," Pandya-Wood said.

“All the data is showing that we’re throwing up all sorts of problems here for this generation in the future.

“I think we should be asking what kind of services should we be providing for young people and what sort of services should we be providing to help young people grow up happily and healthily.”

Fiona Blacke, chief executive of the National Youth Agency, shares Pandya-Wood's concerns about the impact of cutting youth services.

She said: “Great youth work has a preventative effect.

“Massive cuts to youth services are short-sighted, as denied support in this way, many [young people] will require more intense, more costly services in the longer term.

“I understand that local government is making incredibly difficult budgetary decisions but it is vital that they think creatively in order to take a long-term strategic view of their services to young people.”

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