Is access to good youth work a right? There has been trend in youth work to focus provision on tackling persevered or recorded issues among young people – often with youth workers challenging or stopping such behaviour. Other providers, and government objectives seem to now prefer the approach of providing ‘positive activities’ as a distraction from ‘negative’ activities young people would otherwise be engaging in. However it was recently suggested to me that rather than providing youth work on such a basis young people deserve to receive good youth work for the sake that they are young people and deserve it.
Considering this from various perspectives challenges both our practice and the values that underpin our work. Starting from the perspective that young people have a right to, or perhaps need for, fun and enjoyable activities as part of their youth. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that young people have access to such activities? Parents? Community? Government? If we consider that it is the responsibility of parents to facilitate such activities moves youth work into a different arena. However how many young people do you know who want their parents facilitating their fun and social activities? It is fair to say that the majority of young people would want anything but this. (I accept this is a sweeping generalisation, and accept that many young people have healthy relationships with their parents that allow for good social interaction, however particularly with older young people there is clearly a need for growing independence from their parents.) Perhaps one instance where this does not happen is in the church, where parents from the basis of their Christian ethics and morality restrict the social possibilities available to their children and subsequently employ youth workers to facilitate ‘safe’ social activities. If this is the case then such youth workers need to consider the position they are working from. Are they primarily being employed as youth evangelists or play leaders (deliberate hyperbole), and as such do the values that are usually given to underpin youth work still apply in such situations. However I suggest that for healthy development of older young people it is not the role of parents to be the primary facilitators of social activities, as such we now need to consider the role of local community in ‘facilitating fun’.
Local communities role could perhaps take many forms in current, western society, ranging from things such as; parks and ‘play’ equipment to sports clubs and youth work (ignoring youth work which is funded by parents or government). [to be continued…]