Dear Friends and Colleagues in the Community Based Youth Work sector,it is with some sadness and a great deal of pride in VYM’s achievements that we are sending this letter.
VYM Closure and Celebration announcement
Voluntary Youth Manchester was established as a charity in 2005, with the purpose of strengthening communications and partnership between the community-based voluntary youth work sector in Manchester and the City Council. With funding from the City Council, it was one of a number of networks which were established in that period to enable a better relationship between the City Council and its key partners. With the benefit of a full-time worker, VYM became an important focus for the community based Youth Sector in the city, supporting autonomous work and enabling groups to develop their own agendas for good practice, rather than merely becoming clients of the Council and subservient to it. In fact, of all the networks established at that time, it was often claimed as the most successful. VYM has been, for many, their first welcome to the youth sector; introducing professionals and organisations to each other. Long term links, partnerships and joint working are the fruits of VYM’s network.
Once the City Council ceased to support its own Youth Service the role of VYM became ever more significant, and VYM was the focus for very successful campaigning to support the continued existence of the Youth Fund in the City. The establishment in 2017 of a youth trust – Young Manchester – has understandably changed the landscape further.
At the same time in 2017 VYM appointed a new board of trustees. We began a process of consultation exploring how VYM’s role was to evolve over the next few years.
As a result of this consultation the new board have supported, via a sub-contract from GMYN, a number of Equality and Diversity Workshops and the development of an Equality, Access and Inclusion Audit tool. They have also supported a newsletter, with the help of MACC, and network meetings, with different agendas suggested by members of the network.
Throughout such significant changes VYM has continued to encourage discourse, dialogue and conversation. Most urgently and not least around the requirements for ongoing professional development within the youth sector, and infrastructure for the training and accrediting of a new generation of youth and community workers.
However, it has become evident that the landscape of community-based youth work provision and professional development in the City is changing. The City Council’s role is less pivotal and so the original reason for VYM’s existence is no longer in being. The new Board of Trustees have attempted to develop a new role for VYM in this new climate. Having undertaken a careful analysis and consultation, we have reached the conclusion that most of the capacity building and infrastructure required to ensure there is a new generation of professionally trained Youth and Community workers in Manchester requires new thinking and approaches. The programmes VYM has historically delivered now forms the brief of other organisations which are currently receiving the resources to undertake such work. We have therefore agreed that VYM will cease operation on March 31st 2020.
It is undoubtedly the case that the sector continues to need a forum for independent and critical voices to be heard. The understanding of community-based youth work, the forms of staff development and supervision it needs, and above all the rootedness of the work in core professional practices and values of informal social and political education, association, activity and adventure, group work and community development needs to be safeguarded and upheld. This is a practice that starts from young people’s strengths and seeks to develop them, is on their side and advocates for equality, human rights, collective voice and empowerment. We believe and hope that these good practices will not disappear in Manchester and the professional capacity is developed to ensure a next generation of youth and community workers can receive the professional development desperately needed in the coming period.
We offer the work on the Equality, Access and Inclusion Audit Tool that VYM has undertaken as the basis for a new Equalities Youth Work Network, with subgroups led by key organisations in the city. There will be a gathering to launch this Audit Tool and to celebrate the work of Voluntary Youth Manchester on March 4th (details to be confirmed). Please join us. It is then over to the youth and community sector to explore how, if at all, it wants to fund, resource and use a new Equalities Youth Work Network as the basis to build and embed professional expertise for new and existing youth and community workers over the next 10 years.
The Board of Trustees. 17th January 2020.