Troubador Keeping Them Off The Streets

Released: 28/02/2019

ISBN: 9781789016499

eISBN: 9781789019414

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Keeping Them Off The Streets

A Youth Work Story

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Keeping Them Off The Streets is a remarkable account of over forty years’ experience in the field of youth work. It recounts not just personal experience but also reflects on the policy changes that have accompanied successive governments and new developments in sociological research, their efficacy and implications. It tracks Tim Caley’s career from Sheffield housing estate through the challenges of delivering a successful youth service at a County Level, the world of the Ofsted inspector, and finally a much sought-after private consultant in the youth services field. 

The book provides a new and original perspective on its subject matter. It combines sound research and intellectual analysis with a personal memoir of the issues facing teenagers, then and now.  It is a mixture of policy, personality and practice.  Its author writes from the prism of wide personal experience: as a teacher, youth club leader, detached youth worker, County Youth Officer, Ofsted inspector, management consultant and government special adviser. But the book is not an academic study: it fills a gap in the literature between university academic-led policy essays and theories and the many disparate publications on local practice or organisational history. It is hugely readable - using humour, anecdote and characters to illuminate its messages. Its aim is to inspire, challenge and remind its audience of the benefits and continued importance of work with young people. It is thought-provoking, easy-to-read yet written with eloquence and passion throughout.

Praise for Keeping Them off the Streets

Engaging and highly informative; the book covers key youth work debates that students, academics and practitioners grapple with including policy, professionalisation and perceptions of the young. Highly compelling - it draws you in from the first page!
(Dr. Naomi Thompson, Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London)

Very good - there are few, if any, similar works that link personal practice with the wider policy arena as this does. The material on detached work and the rare section on inspection practices are especially valuable.
(Tom Wylie, Chief Executive, National Youth Agency 1995-2007)

Concise, engaging and beautifully written - an important addition to the literature.
(Tania de St. Croix, Senior Lecturer, King's College, London)

I read it avidly - thought-provoking and in an easy to read format. I think it will be a good read for student youth workers, especially with a view to keeping the youth work flame alight. (Lucy Hill, Youth Work manager, Sussex)

A stimulating on-the-ground insider's insights into youth policies and developments over forty years. Enjoyable and highly informative - we have far too few contributions like this to our youth work literature. (Bernard Davies, author of the History of the Youth Service)

The book is topical and timely - hopefully its messages will speak to policy makers, civil servants and government.
(Dr. Jane Melvin, Principal Lecturer, University of Brighton)

Quite an achievement...warm, insightful and presents an informed and observational reflection on a tremendous career, alongside the twists and turns of youth work over the past forty five years. The insights and anecdotes are fabulous - it's what gives the book authenticity and accessibility. A good story, told well - with important messages that deserve to be heard. (Dr. Mark Price, Principal Lecturer, University of Brighton)

A real story with a level of veracity and authenticity that others often lack. The anecdotes are warmly written, highlighting the passion and strong value base the author obviously has for youth work. Indeed, few youth workers possess the author's 'grassroots to government' profile. There is a role model here for youth workers to aspire to, learn from and shape their own professional development.
(Mick Conroy, Course Leader: Youth & Community Work, University of South Wales)

That's Books

Everyone loves a good youth work story. The humour, challenges and frequent feelings of fulfilment that come from working with young people mean that they often fill the bill for a good yarn. Those of us who are or have been youth workers can recognise our own practice, feel the value of our work reaffirmed, whilst secretly thinking we might have done things differently/it would never have worked with ‘our’ young people/were all of the safeguarding procedures followed/why didn’t they ask, observe, build upon such-and-such? And once we have satisfied our sense of self-importance (or maybe I’m just talking for myself here), we wonder why more people don’t write about their work.
Picking up Tim Caley’s ‘Keeping Them Off The Streets - a youth work story,’ I was looking forward to a fun, if ultimately unchallenging read. And from the start it had all the ingredients that I was looking for. It starts with Tim taking over the management of a new youth centre built underneath a new block of flats in Sheffield, much to some of the neighbour’s annoyance. Having recently moved into the modern reincarnation of such a youth centre in London, I was struck how, despite the nearly 50 years having passed in bets, our experiences were so similar.
Equally recognisable were Tim’s stories of residents complaining that he could not single-handedly stop a fight between groups from different estates but was seen instead to condone it by just being present, or the youth centre becoming a second home of young people seen as failures elsewhere. It is strange how much pleasure we (I) can derive from having our opinions and experiences validated - it might have as much long-term significance as a hurriedly issued AQA Award certificate, but it’s a nice way to pass the time.
And then, about 70 pages in, Tim gets promoted. He no longer works regularly face-to-face with young people. Indeed, he relocated to Reading, where he has no previous contact with young people, to work as a Youth Officer, before becoming Head of Service I’m Hampshire. Having read the blurb on the back, I knew he had worked in a range of senior positions, but still I felt thoroughly let down. Tim himself acknowledges the difficulties of transitioning from working with young people to managing (up and down) adults. Where were the heart-warming stories of Plug and his crew? How were the conflicts with the residents resolved? And who wants to read about being a middle manager in what some might think an unglamorous local authority (I mean, everyone knows that all the good youth work is in gritty inner-city settings, right)?
My sense of unfounded betrayal lasted only about 20 pages. That is, until I realised that although the rest of the book would not offer me the same opportunities to smugly recognise my own experiences (though Tim does write passionately about the face-to-face work of other youth workers), it was far more challenging to my preconceptions. And to my surprise, I found myself enjoying it. 5e book sails along, with plenty of examples of practice, pictures and personal asides to keep the reader engaged. Tim displays an obvious pride for his work and for that to the many youth workers he has worked with.
Part memoir, part history of youth policy and part celebration of youth work, ‘Keeping Them Off The Streets’ may not be the book some wish for. Tim does not acclaim radical youth work values, and any critiques of the various governments along the way and their policies are measured and balanced. At a time of inflamed tensions, Tim’s book is not a call to arms to protect a dying profession. It questions quite how golden the golden ages of Albemarle and the first Blair government were, whilst acknowledging the importance of the funding that flowed at the time. It recognises the negatives of the target-driven agenda, whilst not shying away from the fact that some youth work practice is poor and needs to be held accountable. And ultimately, the book challenges the idea that youth work is dead - looking from a broader perspective, the current situation is bad, but neither unprecedented nor unsurmountable.
Obviously, the story is necessarily personal - the book does not claim to represent all the diversity of youth work experiences in different contexts across the country. But having worked face-to-face, as an officer, consultant and inspectoral, Tim is able in ‘ Keeping Them Off The Streets ‘ to offer a panoramic view of youth works journey over nearly 50 years. It adds an essential grounding in youth work history and ideas around communicating our values, for students and practitioners alike. Whilst it is not the rollicking good read that I may have expected or wished for, or the rabble-rouser that maybe the profession needs right now, it is possibly far more useful- a fair-minded insight into how we have got to where we are today, and a gentle reminder of how youth work will and must continue into the future.

by Colin Brent


A Real Time Machine
I teach community development and youth work students. In one lecture I said that I wish I had a time machine in which I could take them back to experience youth work and community work in the 1960s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s so that they could get an insight into practice then and a gist of why things are the way they are today.
Then, lo and behold, one materialises in the form of Tim Caley’s book. This is a book that an old youth worker like me can just pick up and be transported back into very familiar settings, and at the same time engage those readers today with an interest in the profession. To see if the general public will like it I’m going to pass it onto my son who is a digital graphic designer to see what it does for him.

The book gives the reader a real insight into the thoughtful, reflective world of someone facing a society that doesn’t like young people much and having to constantly navigate the twilight world of advocating for young people on the one hand,whilst walking alongside them on the other. Tim weaves into each chapter people and events that have shaped him and his professional life. It covers the journey of learning his craft from the ground floor up to becoming an Ofsted inspector.
Using his story as a framework Tim weaves the bigger political and policy story into his. This makes for an entertaining and informative read. The book is sprinkled with pictures, cartoons and documents pertinent to the tale.

If you want to really get an insight into youth and community work from within this is as good a source as any. As a good read I would put this book on the same shelf as Gervase Phinn’s books about being a school inspector in Yorkshire, or William Woodruff’s ‘Road to Nab End,’ but it’s use as a tool for understanding the noble art and trade of Youth and Community work is going to be very useful and will be recommended to my students in the future.

by Bren Cook


A fantastic piece, excellent in most parts

Excellent book outlining the history and benefits of youth work. The book does an excellent job of explaining the transformation of youth work from the 1970’s to the present day. It’s interesting to see that the positives as well as the challenges seem relatively similar over time. Only piece that lost a star for me was the explanation of policy and management, which gives back story, but can easily lose the reader for 5-10 minutes at a time. Well worth a read for anyone interested in youth work or anyone currently in the profession.

by Toby


‘Keeping Them off the Streets’ is the autobiography of youth worker Tim Caley.

It’s not merely the story of Tim’s life. He has skilfully intertwined his personal memoir with a social history and an examination of the constantly moving and changing politics and policies in the field of youth work and of young people over the past 40 years. And how these policies impacted at the grassroots level.

Tim has eschewed the formal and academic way of looking at the issues and events. Instead he has chosen to provide a warm, human commentary based on his own experiences. Although it contains amusing anecdotes and is written in a humorous fashion, it is intended to contain messages and information that are vitally important and relevant about the continuing needs of young people in the 21st century.

Tim started as a fresh, young and keen youth worker of 24 years age in 1972 in a tough area in Sheffield. He was pleasantly surprised that he had the support of the local police inspector, which wasn’t always the case. He points out that in the 1979s youth work was viewed through the lens of Marxist theories of race, class and gender. Although he had two degrees he became a teacher and later a youth worker with no formal qualifications in either teaching or youth work, which, he readily admits, did make him feel something of a fraud when he compared himself to colleagues who did have the relevant qualifications.

He relates a very telling anecdote. A group of youth workers, it is reported, had a meeting with Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister. They were lobbying him on the benefits of youth work. They spent a considerable amount of time berating him on what they perceived as the lack of recognition, value and their credibility. Heath had listened to them, with patience, and eventually asked them to please explain what youth work achieved? There was a period of pregnant silence and the youth workers found it hard to agree or provide any coherent answers.

Tim’s book is a interesting study in how he and the youths he worked with grew and developed, how he worked out strategies to deal with truants (his policy was to keep them busy and not phone the Education Welfare Officer) how to deal with officialdom, and how to deal with the ever-shifting rules and regulations that government (local and national) kept imposing on both youth workers and youths. Including the OFSTED regimen.

If you are interested in the history of youth work and youth culture, this book is for you.

by Martin S.


Just finished reading your Book. Loved it from start to finish! Your conclusions about the current demise and situation of youth services are spot on.

by Simon Skidmore


My best Xmas present by far. Engaging, passionate and inspiring work from Tim Caley. A must read for anyone working in the field.

by Keith Grant


Tim Caley

Tim Caley was a teacher and youth worker in Sheffield in the 1970s, became County Youth officer in both Hampshire and West Sussex and was also an Ofsted youth work inspector. He later joined the private sector and became a much sought after consultant for youth services and charities. Recently, he has enjoyed being a trustee for KeepOut, a crime diversion scheme in Surrey and Motiv8, a young people's charity in Portsmouth. He is now based in Hampshire.


Tim Caley

Keeping Them off the Streets
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