What’s in a name?

I read in Children & Young People Now this week, that the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services (CHYPS) is proposing that we should do away with the term ‘youth worker’, in favour of something that suggests a more ‘professional’ status.  CHYPS are keen that qualified workers start to refer to themselves as ‘Youth Work Professionals’, to make it clear to the world that we are a genuine profession with a long and valuable heritage.  Where do these people get this stuff?  And more to the point, who is paying for them to waste their time dreaming-up this nonsense?

It says a lot about the mistaken sense of self-importance that CHYPS have, that they could even imagine that they have the power or authority to propose such a change and have it taken seriously.  It is precisely because, as youth workers, we do have a long and cherished history and we would fight tooth and nail to defend it and to stop our identities being hijacked to fit with a government ‘professionalisation’ agenda that is no more likely to survive the decade than CHYPS itself.  What are the heads of local authority youth services saying about voluntary youth workers with this latest spin?  Are they suggesting that anyone other than degree-qualified youth work practitioners are somehow inferior or unsatisfactory?  This could be a good time to remind CHYPS that youth work was created by exactly the kind of volunteer workers that they are now seeking to undermine and that we had a healthy 100 year history before the statutory services got involved.  The term ‘youth worker’ was created in the 1930s by volunteers, young people and the first generation of paid staff as a way to adequately sum up an important role in the lives of young people.  The name stuck because it has a clear and simple focus and everyone knows what it means.  Far be it from me to suggest that a perfectly good grass-roots term that is respected by the public should be more important than the results of a 10 minute coffee-break marketing brainstorm done by CHYPS.  What do you think?

Andy Clow

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