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Counting Young People is Not Youth Work’: The Tensions Between Values, Targets and Positive Activities in Neighbourhood-Based Work

The UK New Labour Government’s ideological preoccupations included tackling deprivation, addressing anti-social behaviour and persuading young people to engage in ‘positive activities’. In 2007, the report ‘Aiming High for Young People’ outlined policies intended to contribute to the achievement of associated goals. The Youth Sector Development Fund (YSDF) provided Civil Sector Organisations (CSOs) with the means to put the policies into practice and also aimed to build organisational capacity. Using data gathered for the evaluation of one organisation’s YSDF-financed programme of detached work on housing estates in Yorkshire, this article explores some of the tensions between the traditional youth work values of voluntary engagement, informal education and association and the demand for quick results linked to a particular short-term funding stream. The potential for longer-term impacts was undermined as YSDF’s approach to ensuring sustainability focused on funding diversification rather than embedding the work in local communities. The article concludes that ongoing input rather than a short injection of funding is needed to generate effective long-term impacts on communities.