Defending Democratic Youth Work


  • Tony Taylor


The UK's liberal-cum-democratic welfare regime has led to a more developed state-sponsored youth work than in the majority of continental Europe, where a corporatist welfare regime has held sway (Esping Andersen 1990). To this extent British Youth Work has been more susceptible to governmental intervention. Nevertheless the ascendancy of neo-liberalism across the last three decades has disturbed significantly all models of the Welfare State, expressed in the impact of 'New Managerialism'. Thus we are seeing a convergence towards an imposed, instrumental, output-driven approach to the delivery of both education and welfare. In both the UK and continental Europe youth workers and social workers are confronted with intrusive interventions and demands from governments, which are utterly at odds with their shared desire to start from 'where young people are at'. In this paper we sketch the emergence of a campaign within Youth Work, which seeks to oppose and resist its transformation into an agency of social engineering. In contrast we stand for an emancipatory Youth Work committed to social change. In telling our story thus far we hope to reach out to and make alliances with workers across Europe sympathetic to our cause.