Youth and community work in the 70s – the young adult group

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Youth and community work in the 70s

This chapter of the Fairbairn-Milson Report (Youth and Community Work in the 70s) (1969) contains some significant and brave statements about the nature of work with young people. It argues for a community development approach and for political education and sets out the implications for various groups and institutions in society.

contents: introduction · self-determination · community development implications · development towards adulthood · political education · international understanding · our prescription · some implications · future provision for the young adult group · footnotes · how to cite this piece
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[page 73] 191. Here we are specifically concerned with the older members of our constituency, those in fact who would identify themselves as ‘adults’ rather than as ‘youth’, though admittedly the line is hard to draw, as the discussion in paragraph 175 has already shown.

192. The problem, as in most social and educational provision, is to recognise similarities and differences; how can we best recognise that they are both ‘adults’ and ‘young’? A doctrinaire insistence on their adulthood may lead to a failure to recognise needs they may have because they are at a certain stage of development in a particular culture. Moreover it may well be that if they are not identified as a group for administrative purposes they will lose support and the merging will be an excuse for those who do little for youth work to do less. We think that in the foreseeable future they will need to have a title and perhaps Youth and Community Service’ is the best; any possible segregation that might result will be minimised, we believe, if the service takes on the character that we have described—adult relationships, community development, self determination.

193. When we looked at the present Youth Service we found deficiencies and failures among heartening success; more accurately, we found many people worried by a tantalising gap between vision and achievement. One or two of these failures apply with special force to the upper age-group: for example, that the service has too juvenile an image, that it offers little real responsibility and that it tends to separate ‘Youth’ from the rest of the community. Many of these misgivings begin to assume a pattern if we apply the criterion previously described, that ‘Youth Service’ is an aspect of community development and that its prime goal is to involve young people critically with their society. When young people begin to move towards ‘adulthood’ much current youth provision begins to have less and less relevance for them.

194. It is our aim to suggest means by which this can be changed. However there can, we believe, be no lasting answers to the dilemmas of youth work without a radical rethinking of the position of young people in society, and of [page 74] adult attitudes to the young. This rethinking has started elsewhere. The minimum age of franchise will soon be 18, and the age of majority has recently been the subject of a report to the Lord High Chancellor by the Hon. Mr. Justice Latey’s Committee. (1) The Latey Committee recommended that the age at which minority should cease should be reduced from 21 to 18, and this has now been accepted by the Government. Yet the Latey Committee did not create a situation, but rather saw one which had already developed; the earlier social maturity of the young is an established fact, the Committee’s recommendations merely recognise it. Young people are assuming widespread independence before the statutory age of 21; largely because they are earning wages which free them from dependence upon their parents. Many, particularly the girls, are married before they are 21, and may already have started their own families. We believe that it is vital that all concerned with young people in work and leisure situations should recognise their changed position. Recent student troubles have already indicated some of the consequences of failing to recognise the growing maturity of higher education students at a time when all their inclinations and abilities are for them to play a more adult role. In many respects, however, those young people already in jobs may be still more mature, but this goes unrecognised far too often. We ask, therefore, for work with these young people through which both they and their society can be helped towards maturity, as part of an ‘active society’ responsive and eager for change and development. We ask for work with young adults which is based upon the principles of community development by all the various agencies concerned with young people, not just those which comprise the Youth Service.

195. Those who work with young adults should no longer see themselves as ‘providers’, placing young people in the position of ‘receivers’ who are sometimes to be given ‘shadow’ responsibilities. Non-directive approaches are rare in the education service but they are vital if this work is to become something more than merely a means of providing recreational facilities in competition with the commercial world. In NAYSO’s words, ‘if the purpose of our society is to develop a discriminating, critical, sharing adult, then young people must have the opportunity of practising self-determination prior to adulthood’. There are, however, too few adults who are willing to let young people have the chance to work things through for themselves. In future, young people must be given both this chance and the opportunity to decide for themselves what should be provided, and in what manner. Only thus will their real needs be met. We see older adults in the Youth Service as ‘enablers’: enabling those younger than themselves to distinguish their needs from their wants: and enabling these to be satisfied with community resources where these are required. [page 75]


196. The first step in changing the pattern of work for the young adult is thus self-determination. However, it is our hope that something still more important can develop from this. One of the major criticisms of present youth provision is that it isolates the young from the rest of society. As the National Council of Social Service said to us in evidence, ‘we would urge that youth organisations be encouraged to see themselves as part of the whole community and forge links between themselves and the adult world’. But more than this, as the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations said, it is vital ‘to find ways in which young people of all ranges of ability can contribute to the welfare of society, not only by community service but by contributions to the shaping of our society’. Yet the evidence of existing provision illustrates that there are too few places where the young are welcomed into any kind of involvement with the rest of society, and too few adults who are willing to see them as social partners, who are expected to define, as well as to share a common task. There are, of course, areas of considerable association between young people and their elders, notably those where age is of less importance than a shared purpose or interest eg in bands, theatres or choirs, at football matches and in pubs. But even shared activity does not mean that young people are valued appropriately, and we believe that adult attitudes to the young are overwhelmingly paternalistic. It is becoming obvious that adults must in future accept young people as social equals and no longer as children expected to play adult roles only in those areas where it is convenient for adults that they should do so. We see it as a task of the Youth Service to further this engagement of the young in and with society. There is talk in many quarters today about ‘participation’. An important aim of Youth Service should be to facilitate critical and responsible participation among the rising generation.

197. In suggesting this, it is no part of our aim to achieve a comfortable integration of the youth and adult populations, nor to attempt to ‘socialise’ the young so that they are reconciled with the status quo, and capitulate to its values. Yet such aims are still widespread. For example, they would appear to be behind statements like that of the National Federation of Community Associations that ‘without contact with the adult world in their leisure time there is no opportunity for them to practise adult behaviour within an adult society’. We agree with the National Union of Students that ‘young people must be encouraged to find their own values through their own experience and through their experience of society’. Work with young adults must, in the future, therefore, no longer be a device for the social control of them by others, and it must be seen not to be, lest it be mistrusted.

198. Another aim of work with young adults should be to welcome the values of young people and to use them in a constructive and positive way. Just as the [page 76] young, helped by sympathetic adults, gain confidence in administering their own organisations, we hope that they will be helped to examine how their activities impinge upon others, and their relationship with the rest of the community. We do not want the young to ‘know their place’ and to comment only on those matters which immediately concern them. In the active society their place is everywhere, their comments on all aspects in order, for all is their concern. Thus, as the National Association of Youth Clubs say, ‘Youth organisations should demand the inclusion locally, nationally, and internationally of young adults in community decisions’. The aim should be to establish a dialogue between the young and the rest of society; a dialectical, and not necessarily amicable, process through which both parties are able to learn from one another, and which thus gives real possibilities for progress in our society. Philip Toynbee put this well when he said’. .. I think it appropriate that each of us should exercise the capacities and perceptions appropriate to his age, and that if we do this properly—I mean both vigorously and generously—then the tensions between the age groups will be enlightened and fruitful’(2). Thus the young may say, as the NUS said to us in evidence: ‘While experience may be a great teacher it is not the only one and it can, in many cases, be misleading. This means that the mere acquisition of experience may not, of itself, give a better right to judge than those who lack the experience but perhaps see more clearly society as it exists today’. The older generation may, of course, answer that experience is necessary, and that the world is neither so simple nor can its problems be solved so quickly as the young would suppose.

199. In urging that the young adult should have responsibility for his own affairs and the opportunity to take some responsibility for the facilities for others as well and help to shape the life of the community, we have in mind not that he would simply be practising democracy for future use in real life; but rather that he would be living and contributing directly towards a democratic way of life. Indeed, where the rest of the community is little developed, young people operating within this framework may act as a ginger group, so that youth work which is based upon the principles of community development, can itself contribute to the process of development.

200. If our approach becomes general this will, no doubt, mean that young adults will become involved in activities and discussions which are, by their very nature, controversial, and which have indeed until now been labelled ‘political’ and thus not the province of youth organisations. This involvement is central to the success of an active society, and only in this way will it be able to adapt to its young people and, at the same time, allow them to develop  [page 77] towards a true personal maturity; a maturity that many of their parents have never reached.

201. One word of warning may be necessary. We agree with the National Union of Students when they say that they are ‘concerned that however much lip-service may be paid to the idea of young people challenging the accepted values of the community, there is an underlying complacency that these values are, in themselves, absolute and beyond challenge’. There can no longer be an underlying consensus about all the issues which face our society. All who read, this report should realise that its approach has considerable implications. Those who want nothing more than a quiet life should think again.

Community development implications

202. One of the criteria, then, of the success of existing institutions is how far they contribute to the process of community development. This criterion is so different from the yardsticks, too often applied in the past, of ‘how many’ members, organisations, or activities, that many will find it difficult to grasp and still more difficult to apply. We do not underestimate the difficulties of adopting these principles, and we realise how rarely such an approach is accepted at present. Nevertheless it is one which by its very nature allows for great flexibility, and we were encouraged by some examples of achievement to believe that progress in this direction is possible. We believe that there are no long-term answers to the perplexities of youth work apart from the growth and encouragement of community development.

203. One comment we must make here, and trust it will not be misunderstood. It is possible to have a conscious commitment to the standards of involvement, responsibility and self-determination, and yet to be found not always strenuously seeking to put them into practice; community development in the title-deeds does not guarantee community development in the organisation. A pseudo-dedication has its own dangers. If we choose three examples it is only to demonstrate that even the best need to assess themselves critically, and that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

204. The first is voluntary organisations. The existing pattern of voluntary youth organisations already shows many concerned with a similar emphasis to that of the Young Christian Workers: social education, involving a real partnership with mature adults, and the opportunity to discuss subjects of urgent importance with no topics barred. Indeed the voluntary organisations should be able to provide examples of community development by young people, since they are ideally examples of institutions run by people who as a basis of their work accept responsibility for themselves, and the need for others to do likewise. Nevertheless the evidence indicates that adult attitudes

[page 78]

within voluntary organisations are all too often little different from those throughout society. We urge existing voluntary organisations, therefore, to accept the relevance of community development to their work so that they can become major channels through which the community can find ways of solving its problems. However, as we shall explain later, this does not mean that all funds will be raised on a voluntary basis.

205. The second example is community service by young people which we have mentioned already and which is often quoted as an example of one part of the Youth Service where young people achieve real involvement in society. Valuable work is being done in this field, much of which would be neglected if it were not for the efforts of the groups concerned. However, we think that, when young people could discover human needs themselves and decide what to do about meeting them, they are often only allowed to proceed under adult direction; that, when they need help to do this, they are often told by adults what to do, instead of being involved in the discovery of need and decisions about action; and that personal service is usually seen as the only goal though young people could often be helped and encouraged to go beyond this and attack the underlying causes of social problems. We consider, therefore, that a more responsible role should be given to the young people concerned. We deal with community service in more detail in the next chapter (paragraphs 242 to 246).

206. The third example is community associations, which in theory could meet all the requirements for community development. At their best they cater for expressions of individual and small group needs by encouraging initiative in activity and responsibility for decisions. In their emphasis on vigorous local effort and on the benefits to social health and personal education that can result from individuals coming together in local communities, caring for others by spontaneous individual effort as well as that of organised groups, identifying needs and promoting action to meet them through private effort as much as through public resources, they were at one time a corner-stone of a broadly conceived policy for the development of adult education. However, whatever their potential, the community associations have often failed to secure any significant community involvement. What are the sources of the failure of some of these community associations? How could they be helped to become more efficient? They have certainly suffered from a dearth of professionally trained workers, and have too often been in the hands of people who have little grasp of the essential purpose of community organisations. Yet we feel that the basic reason for their lack of significance may be their lack of economic power; public funds available to the community associations having been screwed down to the minimum. We recognise how difficult their task has been and how little official support and encouragement they have [page 79] had. Where possible, the associations should attempt to finance their activities from private sources. However, changes in the amount of money available to the community associations, or in their staffing, are not in themselves sufficient. Their approach must be clarified and their powers within the community increased. Their functions must be clearly defined and appropriate internal reorganisation should follow to support this. Their role should lie in the following areas; welfare provision, recreational provision, art and sport provision, and communal services. Their broader incorporation into the life of the community should be achieved by their representation on important local bodies like the chambers of commerce and the governing boards of educational establishments. Only with progress along these lines can the community associations be given power and responsibility to achieve the central role in their neighbourhoods that we would wish for them.

207. It is already the declared policy of the NFCA that ‘all community associations should have a concern to see that adequate provision is made to meet the needs of youth, either by the appropriate youth organisations or by their own action’. Thus the NFCA claim that community associations ‘can and do make a considerable contribution to the social education of young people’. They feel that the associations are ‘well-placed to offer opportunities to those teenagers who wish to be treated as adults’ and say that ‘the democratic framework and organisation of a community association creates many opportunities for youth organisations to link up with adult societies without loss of their own autonomy or purpose’. If the community associations are to become real agencies of community development, we would ask them to undertake a radical reassessment of their work and to ask themselves:

(a) How far their movement enables people to identify their own needs and organise themselves to meet them?

(b) How far, apart from specialist activities, young adults and older people co-operate in their associations?

(c) How far young adults are accepted on equal terms with people of an older generation, and how far their ideas can affect policy and decisions?

We believe that it is vital that the community associations come to terms with the need for social development at a time of social change and grant-aid should reflect their response to this challenge.

Development towards adulthood

208.We have pointed to the need for the adults in the community to treat older teenagers as the young adults they are. We have also indicated that present Youth Service approaches are inappropriate for work with young adults and have, therefore, to ask at what age new approaches should start.

209. We would prefer not to define ‘adulthood’ too precisely either by age, legal status, or any other single criterion. There are many kinds of adult [page 80] maturity and immaturity. However, when full legal adult status at 18 becomes a fact, and the school leaving age is raised to 16, it would seem reasonable to regard 16 to 17 as the end of the juvenile phase and the beginning of an acceptance of some adult responsibilities along with some adult privileges. We thus recommend that those concerned with the Youth Service should begin to make or enable provision which is more adult and more client-centred for those young people who wish from the age of 16 to 17 onwards. We must also bear in mind that the most important transition in the lives of most young people is from school to work. However, realising that young people develop at very different rates, and recognising that our figures indicate that the present Youth Service appeals to not insignificant numbers of older teenagers, particularly boys, we have no wish to apply a rigid demarcation line. Some younger people may be attracted towards the provision for the 16s and overs, and similarly, it should be possible for some older teenagers to support activities specifically planned for a younger age. The possibility of some overlap should be accepted as being in the best interests of the client.

210. We are concerned, therefore, from this point onwards with the development of provision which will recognise and encourage the maturity and satisfy the needs of young people from the new school leaving age of 16 upwards. We readily accept that some young people will be attracted to it at an earlier age and others will move into it at a later age.

Political education

211. There is little political education for the young in this country. The reasons are clear. We avoid the issues in this context because they are controversial. We are aware of the thin line which divides political education from political indoctrination. Many of the issues are associated with party loyalties and it is hard to distinguish always between politics and party politics. Yet whatever the difficulties the result is that we exclude from the educational process and from discussions across the generations many moral issues. Politics is concerned with life and with how people live together. We see the new service providing many opportunities for young people to discuss matters of controversy and to share in the formation of public opinion. These opportunities will be even more important when, as we anticipate, the voting age is lowered to 18.

212. One aspect of this subject is fraught with difficulty but should be faced. There is practically no contact at present between Youth Service and the political youth groups. At local level they are isolated and at national level the only contact has been through membership of the British Youth Council. Again, we can understand the reasons for this separation. Political youth groups have been excluded from Youth Service for three reasons, apart from a [page 81] common belief that the young are politically apathetic. First, because the ‘Hitler Youth’ and other youth movements in totalitarian countries were thought to be dangerous precedents showing that such organisations could become government tools; secondly, because the age range was different from the Youth Service—they deal with the 15 to 25 or 30 age-range; thirdly, because it was thought that central or local government funds neither could nor should be given to political organisations, just as prior to the Albemarle Report it was not thought appropriate to give government financial assistance to church youth organisations.

213. We recognise the difficulty and question the wisdom of using public funds to support party political groups. But there are levels of recognition, association and co-operation which do not involve material aid. Elsewhere in this report we have suggested other agencies with whom we see the same pattern of partnership developing, for example with industry. If our oft-repeated hope of the new service—’the critical involvement of young people in their society’—is to find any fulfilment then we cannot be isolated from political issues nor from political youth groups, for in so doing we would be avoiding some of the major issues of our time. A level of partnership may have difficulties but it must be sought and found. 

International understanding

214. Another area of interest which is highly relevant to the lives of young people concerns relationships with people overseas and also with those who come here as immigrants (3). Different kinds of problem and opportunity are involved and no single approach is suggested. One thing is clear to us: namely that a positive educational function is to help the young adult towards the better understanding of peoples and a greater appreciation and tolerance of differences. We believe that this is an appropriate and realistic objective at a stage of personal development which is often characterised by sociability and a lively interest in travel at home and abroad. One matter which the Department should clear up is its own legal inability to make grants to young people to help finance various overseas ventures and studies. We think that it is vital that, in the interests of international understanding, such ventures should be encouraged. We have noted with interest the work of the British Youth Council, United Nations Association, International Work Camps and similar bodies in this field, and would like to see them receive encouragement and support from the Department.

Our prescription

215. We recognise of course that in arguing for the emphasis to be put upon community development we may ourselves be in danger of setting up a  [page 82] stereotyped image of young people as having one dominant feature: that of wanting to be actively involved in their society. There are of course other important needs—for counselling, for example, help with handicaps and provision for special needs; but the two aspects are not unrelated, since many young people need to be helped before they can make their contribution to the community.

216. It is in the light of these considerations that we now venture to describe the kind of Youth Service for the young adults of 16 and upwards that we should like to see receive the strongest possible encouragement from every supporting quarter. We are diffident about doing so, not only from a sense of our own personal limitations, but because of the danger of establishing artificial boundaries. Further, we are convinced of the need for development to be based on local knowledge, and on the principle of self-determination. What follows, therefore, ought to be regarded more as the enunciation of principles than the prescription of details; the sketch, not the detailed blueprint.

(a) The overall purpose of a service for those of 16 and upwards should be the critical involvement of young people in a society which is theirs as well as ours. It should recognise that it is theirs not only to reason why, but also to help determine what and how. It should think itself successful when it sees them thrusting the ‘ought’ of their choice into the ‘is’ of our circumstances; overcoming the great negative of apathy and acquiessence with the affirmative of involvement and participation.

(b) If its own house is to be in order it should offer genuine possibilities for the maximum self-programming and decision-making by the young people themselves; enabling them to secure provision, rather than patronisingly providing for them.

(c) It should not be thought of as a building- or membership-orientated service but primarily as a dialogue between young adults and other members of the community. Being flexible it should be able to take many forms—only one of which would be organisations; and should be seen in many different places—only one of which would be the school or further education establishment.

(d) It should take account of the peculiar needs of particular social groups and individuals whether they be handicapped in any way or have specialist interests; and it should also take account of the development tasks of the young adult in our society, tasks which have to do with work and marriage and status.

(e) It should respond to young people not as though they were somehow segregated from the rest of the community, but should offer its services as an integral part of the community organisation. [page 83]

(f) It should therefore relate to and draw strength from the forces of ‘community development’ and ‘community organisation’ both inside and outside the education service; and where these are weak or nonexistent it should seek to be the creative agent of community development itself, and to provide opportunities for pleasant associations.

217. These hopes have many implications in many places: for the different agencies of the present Youth Service; for agencies outside Youth Service whose prime responsibility is for young people; for agencies only a part of whose work is with young people. Voluntary organisations, community service and community associations, research, leadership training, administration, and schools and further education establishments are dealt with in other parts of this report; but we should like to point out implications for some of the remaining partners in youth work.

Some implications

The Churches

218. Although few would disagree with the Albemarle dictum that an important aim and method in youth work is pastoral, it is hard to assess the contribution of the churches to community development either in their work among all age groups or more specifically among young adults. There are too many variables for any generalisations. Some churches appear to segregate their members, young and old, from the community. They may of course create some kind of community within their own boundaries by bringing old and young together in common enterprise and shared tasks though this community may be isolated from the wider community outside the religious organisation. In some cases the church has been the catalyst for community development in the total situation. For example, many flourishing youth centres owe their establishment to meetings for the whole neighbourhood called by the clergy to consider this need in the area.

219. We do not wish to tread too firmly on theological and ecclesiastical ground. Yet we venture to suggest that there are three marked trends today in the churches themselves which affirm rather than deny the central theme of our report. The first is theological. In the post-war period the churches have been impressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s stress on ‘man’s coming of age’ (a free translation of a German phrase which literally means ‘having a mouth of his own’). One clear implication of this emphasis is that it is not inconsistent with a Christian view of the world to see man in the twentieth century as called upon to solve more and more of his own problems. The second is reflection upon the area of Christian concern and obedience. More and more Christians are talking about ‘involvement in the secular situation’ and this at least means serving God and man in the community and not merely or even primarily in the  [page 84] religious organisation. A popular religious book of the past decade described the religious quest today as for ‘the gracious neighbour’(4).The third trend is the ecumenical movement which looks with less and less favour on narrow denominational loyalties which in the past have operated to isolate religious organisations from each other and the community. Further, in some places the Anglican church is practising group and team ministries which often involve trained full-time lay workers and is preparing to implement the Church Assembly motion to establish part-time clergy.

220. The logic of these trends is that the Churches should consider their role in relation to the task and opportunities of community development. How far is it consistent with their faith—indeed in the twentieth century how far is it an inevitable consequence of their faith—that they should put a large part of their effort into the encouragement of people to identify their own needs, develop their own resources to meet them and thus (almost in the language of faith) to attain their true stature and dignity in the Universe by learning to govern themselves more and more? In particular there are implications here for the work of the Churches among young people. But there would be further implications in the training of clergy and others for religious organisations and the outlook of local churches. We would like to invite the churches to give serious consideration to the issue we have raised.

221. Two further points are important. One is that the churches are poised to make a major contribution since they are relatively well-provided with manpower and premises. Secondly, though we have used the Christian Churches as our example we have similar hopes of other religions in the land.

222. We conclude that the Churches should:

(a) Consider their work in relation to the theory and opportunities of community development.

(b) Study the implications of this approach for the training of the clergy, part-time clergy and laity, and for the practice of group and team ministries.

(c) Consider means of sharing more widely their provision and personnel with the community as a whole. 

Trade unions

223. We have seen that the TUC has clear and well-directed views of the role which the Youth Service should be fulfilling, and of the reasons for what they see as its current failings. Yet our experience has been that the individual trade unions are themselves failing in their treatment of young people. Their educational schemes for young people are more impressive on paper than in [page 85] practice; attendances are often poor, and the aims of those conducting and attending courses ill-defined. When it comes to policy and decision-making within the unions young people seem rarely to be involved and are rather expected to know their place, leaving such matters to their elders who are too easily assumed to be their betters. At present it seems to be only in industries like mining, where a man’s working powers are at a peak early in his life, where a significant number of young people are engaged, at all levels, in the work of trade union branches. There may however be more opportunities for real involvement by young people at the shop floor level, particularly where the average age of the ‘shop’ is low and the young can gain confidence in the presence of their work-mates. Our conclusion is that the unions, perhaps by their very nature, start their approaches to young people from the basis of their ideology, rather than from an idea of the needs of young people. Their contribution to the social education of the young should not be underestimated— their power is, after all, great—but this education is not obtained in the means we think most beneficial—a discovery by the young themselves, rather than a requirement to fit into a previously determined pattern. Some change, enabling them to integrate young people more fully into the day-to-day affairs of the union branch, would seem highly desirable. Moreover, without trade union involvement, the changes we have recommended for industry and commerce below are unlikely to be fully successful.

224. The Trade Unions should therefore seek to involve young people more fully in:

(a) branch and shop floor activity;

(b) the planning and administration of their educational schemes. 

Industry and commerce

225. Many firms, mainly of medium and large size (5), provide extensive recreational facilities for their employees: chiefly sports facilities but also such things as coffee bars and communal meeting places. They are mostly committed to industrial training schemes for those they employ. However the extent to which thought is given to the particular needs of the young seems to depend very much on the initiative of the personnel, education and training officers involved. Our impression was of a large number of conscientious and hard, working people who were anxious that their firms should make a real contribution to the welfare of their young employees. However it seemed that too often they started with a rigid idea of the needs of young people and of the provision it was appropriate to make for them, and it seems to be the exception for them to involve young people in decisions concerning themselves. [page 86]

226. We are thinking of something more than the involvement of the industrial and commercial worker in the provision of his own recreational and educational facilities. We are concerned with his participation in the business of his firm. In this way, young people may learn responsibility, self-discipline, and leadership, not only through the ‘character building’ schemes favoured by industry and commerce, but on the factory floor and in the apprentice training scheme.

227. The creation of a participant community in industry and commerce is only one aspect of the part these organisations can play in community development. The Director of the Textile Council’s Education and Information Department told us in evidence that ‘there are dangers in having a too closely in-bred community centred in a small factory’; his reason was that ‘it is desirable that youth activities should be centred on a wider community’. Lord Pilkington has pointed out (6) that his firm ‘like many other industrial companies had splendid grounds and facilities very much under-used in places where there are many in the general community to whom use of these facilities would be an inestimable boon’. His company have, therefore, decided that there should be an integration of their recreational facilities into the community, an arrangment of benefit to all concerned.

228. Community development is not a one-way process. We have seen examples of agencies in contact with young people at their places of work with the co-operation of the business organisation concerned. As the Director of the Textile Council’s Education and Information Department said, ‘there is a need for personnel officers, education and training officers in industry to work more closely with the Youth Service and the voluntary organisations’.

229. We would like to see industry and commerce encourage developments along these lines:

(a) Participation of young people in their industrial communities.

(b) Greater integration of industrial personnel and welfare resources into the community.

(c) Greater co-operation between personnel, education and training officers, and youth and community workers with the particular object of identifying the help that can be given by the latter group in the industrial and commercial situation. 

Commercial youth provision

230. The success of commercial provision of bowling alleys, coffee bars, holiday camps, discotheques, and pubs in attracting older young people needs [page 87] no proof. We agree with NAYSO when they argue that this success is due to the fact that ‘the commercial recognition of a young person’s independence confers the status of social independence which the young person is seeking and to which he responds’. We saw good examples of this at the Manchester discotheques and the Billingham Forum.

231. Since one of our basic beliefs is that young people should be allowed to determine for themselves their own leisure provision, it must seem at first sight as though this condition is completely fulfilled in competitive commercial provision. However, it is our belief that young people do not operate in a perfectly competitive market: an existing club or coffee bar will often have a virtual monopoly and to a large extent the young people will have to accept what is offered to them without much opportunity for their own views to be taken into account.

232. We would like to see more examples of close co-operation between commercial and non-commercial providers. The commercial situation offers the opportunity to make contact and throws up pastoral needs which the providers are unable to meet. We recognise that it is too much to expect men whose primary interest is commercial to operate as youth workers but the right contact between trained youth workers and commercial providers opens up considerable possibilities in offering real help to young people. We were glad to note some evidence of this responsibility being exercised by some commercial interests. The dual use of premises and integrated provision of resources of the kind that is more common in new towns is a further example of possible co-operation, and enables a variety of needs to be met without gaps or duplication.

233. We consider, therefore, that commercial provision can best contribute towards the needs of young people and its own interests when:

(a) Young people’s views are taken into account.

(b) Co-operation is developed between commercial and other providers.

Future provision for the young adult group

234. We believe that the principles of community development should play an essential part in all future work with young adults. The Youth Service agencies—the Department of Education and Science, the local education authorities, and the voluntary organisations—should accept it as the guiding principle behind their work; at present few do. In future, young adults must be given the chance to work things through for themselves, and the opportunity to decide for themselves what should be provided and in what manner. Only thus will their real needs be met. This may well, of course, mean that some facilities long denied in some quarters, like alcoholic drinks for the over 18s,

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will have to be met. However, far from diminishing our argument, this only serves to indicate the mistakes of past approaches. We have tried, however, to make it clear that our hopes for community development are broader than this. We hope that youth work organised along these lines will enable young adults to become involved in the total community.

235. We mention earlier the present physical isolation of much of the Youth Service. This is, of course, very much the result of attitudes to the Youth Service, and with a change in attitudes, the comprehensive planning and where possible the linking of community provision must be accepted as a guiding principle for the future. In such circumstances opportunities are offered for informal interchange between various groups. In our context, this means that there would not only be opportunities for association between various groups of young adults, but also for interchange between the generations.


(1) Report of the Committee on the Age of Majority, (Cmnd. 3342), 1968.

(2)Observer, 23rd June 1968.

(3) See the Report of a Committee of the YSDC, ‘Immigrants and the Youth Service’, HMSO, 1967

(4) ’The New Reformation?’ J. A. T. Robinson (p.48). Penguin, 1965.

(5) With reference to the situation in small firms, see the Report of the Industrial Youth Project, NAYC, 1968.

(6) In an address to the Annual General Meeting of the Central Council of Physical Recreation, 3rd November, 1967.

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How to cite this piece: Department of Education and Science (1969) Youth and Community Work in the 70s. Proposals by the Youth Service Development Council (The ‘Fairbairn-Milson Report’), London: HMSO. Extracts in the informal education archives,

This piece has been reproduced here by the informal education homepage under licence from from the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland. The informal education homepage holds a licence to reproduce public service information and another to reproduce Parliamentary material.

First placed in the archives: April 2003 Updated June 2019.