Diocesan youth and children’s workers have expressed growing disquiet about plans to replace two staff posts on the Church of England’s Board of Education with one job
A memo from the Church’s chief education officer, the Revd Jan Ainsworth, dated January 2012, proposes replacing the national youth adviser and the national children’s adviser posts with a single “designated Going for Growth officer”, who would be responsible for delivering the central children’s- and youth-work programme, which was approved by the General Synod in July 2010. It suggests that the money saved be used “to provide short-term consultancies to deliver specific aspects of the Going for Growth [G4G] plan”.
A spokeswoman for Church House this week said: “The decision has been taken to look at bringing together the two roles of youth and children’s officers, and use the funds released to pay for effective work programmes.”
Some diocesan youth and children’s workers are, however, unhappy about the proposals. Ali Campbell, youth and children’s adviser for Chichester diocese, said there had not been sufficient consultation with diocesan youth workers. “It isn’t that we need national advisers to inform us how to do our jobs, but what we do need is excellent advocacy for children and young people,” he said. “Not to consult us, who are going to work with this person [the G4G national officer], is a poor way to go about it.”
Mr Campbell also cited concerns about “airbrushing” the words “youth” and “children’s” from the job title, saying that this sent “the wrong message”. He said that, at a time when youth services across the country are being cut and churches are “picking up the slack”, church youth work “needs more resources, not fewer”.
He reported that he has collected more than a dozen signatures of youth officers from other dioceses who were similarly concerned about the proposals.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mrs Ainsworth said that there was “no question of cutting resources” for youth and children’s work. “This is essentially an internal management decision about how to use the resources allocated to the education division.”
A plan to cut the national youth and children’s posts, which was voted down by the Synod several years ago, was different, she said, because it was “looking at overall resources available at Church House [for youth and children’s work]”. Mrs Ainsworth said that a review of the delivery of G4G, for which the national youth and children’s officers are largely responsible, had found the need for “different kinds of expertise and skills”.
She said that the money saved from the change could be put towards “focused work”, some of which would be carried out by external consultants, on a short-term basis. This work might include “data collection” and running regional conferences.