Jones, Helen M.F. (2015) Is Youth Work an Endangered Profession in England? In: Third ISA Forum of Sociology, 10th-14th July 2016, Vienna, Austria.

In 1997, shortly after Tony Blair became the UK’s Prime Minister, France and Wiles asked, ‘Is youth work still needed?’ (France and Wiles, 1997). They examined whether key aspects of the profession continued to have currency for society, during an era they identified as ‘late modernity characterised by a risk culture’. They concluded that Youth Services had potential to survive. At the time, across the sector there was a brief flourishing of optimism: some even believed that the new government would confer the hitherto-elusive statutory status.
What’s gone wrong? Almost twenty years later few Youth Services survive. Youth work’s potential role in contributing to the prevention of violent extremism and countering sexual exploitation (among other things) has not been developed fully. Graduates from Youth and Community Work professional courses achieve jobs: their skills render them highly employable but they seldom gain posts entitled ‘Youth Worker’. Their knowledge is relevant but often they have to compromise their core values particularly concerning young people’s voluntary involvement.
Late modernity has not been superseded but the Youth Service has vanished from many local authorities. Youth centres are being closed as government austerity cuts disproportionately affect young people. There is an ideological impasse between the Conservative government’s antipathy towards parts of the public sector and youth workers’ desire to ‘make a difference’ which translates into ‘naïve radicalism’ as France and Wiles phrased it.
My paper will focus on the current fragmented picture through revisiting France and Wiles’s article and will consider possible futures for the profession in England.

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