We saw in the previous chapter how the concept of ‘manager’ is a relatively recent incarnation in youth work and how it has developed from its predecessor, the ‘advisor’. Importantly we also saw how the emergence of the notion of management in youth work was as a direct consequence of specific policy interventions and directives which were shaping youth work practice. The intention in this chapter is to explore more fully the policy context out of which youth work management has evolved. Youth work has always been shaped by its wider social, political and economic

context. It is important therefore that any critical analysis of youth work management is also understood within this context. For over three decades, neoliberalism has constituted the dominant ideological framework through which social policy and the design and delivery of public services has been shaped. Whilst a more strident form of neoliberalism advocated by Thatcher in the 1980s was tempered somewhat by New Labour’s ‘Third Way’, it will be argued the fundamentals remained. These included a preference for ‘private’ over ‘public’ sector, and a belief in the importance of a market in delivering a quality service, ‘technical rationality’, and managerialism. As a result of a plethora of policy documents (including Transforming Youth Work (DfES, 2002), Every Child Matters (DfES, 2004), Youth Matters (DfES, 2005) and Aiming High (DCSF, 2007)), the management of youth work has undergone a profound shift. This chapter will examine this in the light of neoliberal principles.