9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN30 Youth and Generation

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Youth at Risk Building II, Auditório B2.04

Negotiating Tensions and Contradictions in Youth Crime Prevention Initiatives in Ireland

Youth work in Ireland is, and historically has been delivered almost exclusively by voluntary, third sector civil society organisations. Over the last thirty years, the sector has traditionally advocated an ethos based on the voluntary participation of young people; a focus on group learning; an informal relationship between participants and organisers, and a concern with the informal social and personal education of the young person (Smith, J. 2001). Social and personal development outside of the formal education system remains the purportedly official focus of youth work (Irish Youth Work Act, 2001). However, increasingly, some youth work organisations have become involved in implementing "Youth Diversion Projects". These multi-agency initiatives were established in 1991 as part of the Government's effort to enhance a community-based approach to diverting young people from the criminal justice system. The National Youth Justice Strategy (2008-2010) aims to establish 168 of these projects by the end of 2012. Currently 100 projects are in operation and have been positively evaluated with regard to diverting young people from criminal or anti-social behaviour (Bowden and Higgins, 2000). However, the involvement of "voluntary" youth work organisations in these projects which are arguably located within a social control discourse opens up a number of tensions and contradictions with the traditional framework of Youth Work in Ireland. This paper seeks to understand how the youth work community negotiates these contradictory ideologies and discourses. Through the analysis of major policy documents and key stakeholder interviews, the two discourses will be juxtaposed and their negotiated cooperation analysed. It will be argued that several commonalities exist, which allow for the alliance to function: the overarching notion of new public management; pressures for resource mobilisation; an increasing shift to targeted work with "disadvantaged" young people and the earnest motivation to find the most appropriate intervention for young people "at risk" of offending. The paper concludes that ?Diversion Projects? may become loci for the practice of "disciplinary networks" (Foucault, 1975) around the young person, which may assume quasi-judicial powers of assessment and programme delivery (Smith, R. 2007), possibly reinforcing "exclusionary" criminology which it claims to be opposed to.