Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

‘Balancing the Needs’


This week, Charlee Bewsher from Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber is offering a double whammy of blogs. Be sure to check back on Monday for the second blog post. In today’s blog, Charlee examines ethical dilemmas faced by youth workers when working with young people.

Earlier this week I attended a conversation on ‘Balancing the Needs’; an opportunity for youth voice and youth workers, to discuss the ethical dilemmas we face when supporting young people to have a voice. The conversation was facilitated by workers and volunteers from Turning the Tide, a national charity that provides training in non-violent action and campaigning and has a long history of working with different groups.

Representatives from local authorities, universities, and charities joined me and it proved to be both a difficult and a rewarding afternoon. When arranging the day, we had gone for a short afternoon session, as we are aware of time pressures for everyone. On reflection, a weekend residential might not have given enough time to fully explore the issues and start developing possible ways forward.

Several issues were identified:

  • How do we keep youth voice real, genuine, and not tokenistic, when managers and local councillors want a particular outcome rubber-stamped?
  • How do we give a voice to the concerns of young people when these conflict with employers’ policies or direction of travel?
  • How do we do this and not get passed over for promotion or lose our jobs in the next round of redundancies?
  • How do we create a safe space for young people to engage and be challenges by political perspectives, in light of the Prevent Agenda?
  • Are we responsible if young people do become politically active and engage in activities that we might ‘frown’ upon?

I could go on and whilst these were the most pressing, many more issues were raised.

What struck me was the morale of workers; a sense that there was nothing that could be done. Youth workers, in their nature and in their soul, are political beings that strive to re-balance the world and they felt trapped and unable to move forward; caught up in the need to tow a line they didn’t believe in. This sense of despair was picked up by our facilitators who asked us to look for solutions, while acknowledging that there was more work to be done in examining our feelings, so that we could move past these.

So what did we come up with? Partnership and working with others who perhaps aren’t constrained by ‘hidden’ agendas or rules. Who because they are outside of financial or political control, can support young people on issues we can’t. The voluntary and faith sectors have a huge history of campaigning, perhaps it’s time more of us took up these opportunities. The universities offered spaces to meet and expertise in research and outcomes and monitoring. The Network of Youth Work Units, with their knowledge of different groups, can help form partnerships, can support both local and regional campaigning work, put on training for the youth sector and young people, and be a listening ear.

Charlee Bewsher

Development Director

Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & Humber


2 comments on “‘Balancing the Needs’

  1. Tony Taylor
    July 17, 2015

    Thanks, Charlee for these timely thoughts. I was discussing with workers only a few weeks ago the dilemma of a repressive culture, within which if they criticise or question their organisation’s policy, they are labelled ‘bad’ employees. It seems clear that this is increasingly the norm. It’s perhaps worth saying that there has been also a rich tradition of campaigning from the youth and community work trade unions, which has been dented. ChooseYouth is still alive, if struggling. And I like to think that In Defence of Youth work can play a small part in the partnerships you propose. I’ll link to your blog on IDYW. Best wishes.

  2. Pingback: Raising morale within Youth Work : Charlee Brewsher wonders how? | IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2015 by in Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & the Humber and tagged , , , , , .
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