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Youth work is a social animal, whatever its form

For those who feel contemporary youth work has been sold (or sold itself) down the river and capitulated to state control - through targeted action, planned interventions, recordable outcomes and the accreditation of achievement - the work of Flemish academic Filip Coussee is instructive. His recent book, A Century of Youth Work Policy (Gent Academia Press, 2008), suggests that, rather than having lost its way, youth work has historically never found its path.

The Myplace fund is a missed opportunity

Much has been made about the transformative effect the Myplace fund will have on youth facilities in England, yet little has been said about whether this is truly the best way to spend this money.

Palestine's young people can lead the way

At the end of January, the Council of Europe held a seminar with the League of Arab States on the development and implementation of youth policy in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

Strange alliance opposes justice reforms

Ever since the overarching Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO) was mooted as the replacement for the complex array of community sentences currently available for young offenders, I have sounded a note of caution. When the Scaled Approach was announced, I immediately started suggesting, in academic lectures on youth justice, that there was an historical precedent that highlighted the need for care in its development.

Poetry unlocks the minds of prisoners

Twice in the space of a week I was in Parc Prison in south Wales. The visits were at either end of a week of poetry, lectures and debate, developed and organised through an impressive and creative tie-up between the real Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye and the prison in Bridgend.

Universal and targeted armies wage war

I was asked the other day where I stood on striking the balance between universal and targeted provision in youth work. I smiled at the juxtaposition. Such a stark division has caused a lot of argument, heartache and grief at ideological and political levels, and in policy and practice. It allows for the drawing up of battle lines: on the one side, those advocating value for money and reaching those somehow objectively assessed as most "in need", on the other, those espousing open doors, thus enabling responsiveness to all forms of "need" as subjectively expressed.

The beautiful game has started to turn ugly

In one of the first discussions on youthful antisocial behaviour during the 1990s, I noted in a speech that most of the lads' magazines tended to be preoccupied with half-naked women and bad-boy footballers.

Where are all these gangs we hear about?

What are these gangs that everyone is so preoccupied about these days? There was a time when there was some consensus that the UK, with the early exception of Glasgow and the later exception of paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, did not have gangs, at least not by the established American definition of the term.