Updated: May 24, 2021
‘Uniform or Not?’
Graeme Tiffany posted the following
Never done a Twitter poll before, but here goes:
Twitter poll outcomes.
Hardly scientific but interesting nonetheless as so few #detachedyouthworkers work only in civvies
For those involved in #detachedyouthwork
Q. Do you think wearing a uniform is a good idea?
I think calling it a uniform put's us youth workers off.... but it's good to be identifiable. So in Rochdale we have decent jackets with the logo on.... Agree - no to the high vis!
Depends on the uniform! We used to wear jackets so the young folks could be fairly confident we weren't a couple of dodgies. That said, it took a few weeks before we could convince them that we weren't 'the fed!'
Tania de St Croix I do one night a week detached as a volunteer,
was offered a coat with "youth worker" on the back and said no thanks. I've never liked them but my colleague would agree re looking less dodgy, maybe the context is different nowadays but I'd feel uncomfortable! #OldSchool
For me, no uniform is about the informal, being part of the community, distance from the establishment. But not being seen as dodgy relies on trust and relationships. One night a week isn't enough. When funding is limited, these more formal aspects like uniform creep in maybe?...
I agree. I put no on Graeme’s poll but I can see pro’s to it. Especially at the start of a project like I was involved in. But it definitely felt like wearing the jacket blurred the boundary between being informal and being seen as another layer of surveillance.
A coincidence, just reading through interviews from our research, uniforms happened to come up after a youth club visit to another club, where workers wore sports type uniforms. Young person: "i don't believe youth work should be in a uniform because it's not a uniform thing."
They're right! We had these discussions at the time with the young folks we met on the streets and they were mostly in that camp, though I remember a few saying that it helped them realise we 'weren't polis.' Though they still took some convincing that we weren't undercover.
Visibility works in different ways; I once came across a case of a gang driving around looking for a young person they knew to be in contact with #youthworkers. He owed them money and they used the uniforms to locate him.
I think it can help initially so people know who you are, particularly in areas when there is a big suspicion of the ‘other’. However, I think when workers are established it can become a hindrance when it denotes a deliberate separation from those you are working with