A growing number of MPs are backing the Early Day Motion 488 calling for a proper youth service to be established.
‘That this House believes that all young people across the UK should have access to a statutory funded, wide-ranging and universal youth service with ring-fenced funding from central government which is delivered by local authorities working closely with schools and youth voluntary organisations; notes the importance of youth services being delivered by professionally qualified youth workers, who offer young people the benefit of wide-ranging information, advice, guidance and support; recognises that a statutory funded, wide-ranging and universal youth service will deliver not only a safe and secure environment for young people to thrive, but in addition, embed critical life skills that enable young people to positively contribute to society both socially and economically; additionally recognises that for many young people, especially the most vulnerable and those from disadvantaged communities, the provision of a statutory funded, universal and wide-ranging youth service will support their journey into further and higher education, employment or training; further believes that a statutory funded, wide-ranging and universal youth service will constitute value for money in that such a service will lead to many young people not having to access higher tiered and more costly interventions later in their lives; and further believes that responsibility for youth services within central government should rest with the Department for Education.’
Steve Reed’s Views
As a Shadow Minister Steve Reed, Croydon North’s MP is not allowed to sign EDMs. He tells me ‘I do of course support the principles behind this one.’ His detailed views about teenagers including youth services can be seen in his article (17 December) on Labour List: http://labourlist.org/2014/12/our-teenagers-need-a-government-to-offer-them-hope.
ChooseYouth Campaign Statement
The following statement has been issued by the ChooseYouth campaign on the crisis facing youth services.
“ChooseYouth, a coalition of 35 national organisations campaigning for youth work and the Youth Service has had two emergency national meetings recently to plan to rebuild the Youth Service from the ruins. It believes that the plan for votes at 16, for voter registration of young people and investment in quality youth work go hand in hand and public investment will have to be found to fund this.
The Youth Service prior to 2009 was funded under a direct government funding line to local authorities. All of them underspent the government’s recommended spending figures. The expenditure figures were collected by the National Youth Agency. Cuts to the NYA’s own funding meant that this annual auditing function was lost. Government funding to local authorities then changed to include the previous youth service funding line under one new block grant for ‘early years intervention.’ Youth Services were then merged into Youth Support Services seeking to integrate a range of specialism largely under a crisis management social work model as poverty, unemployment, family breakdown, inter youth violence and so on created a new generation of young people in difficulties. Problems got worse and worse for children and young people and targeting the most vulnerable became impossible on the reduced funds available. The move to targeted services and away from universal, open access provision only made matters worse.
The historic role of youth work as an educational service offering personal and social development to young people outside school and work and offering an entirely unique space for young people to grow and develop and for preventative work to be undertaken was lost. Then the real assault started. We did not face cuts but an ideologically driven break up of youth work and the youth service. No one can accurately assess the damage because it has been so severe. However, it is undisputed that the Youth Service in England is the first public service to actually disappear.
Fantastic youth work exists in isolated fragments. The architecture of the post war settlement of local authorities working in partnership with the voluntary sector to provide professionally qualified workers and supported volunteers to work with and for young people to expand their horizons and develop citizenship and collective responsibility has gone. No local authority in England has a Youth Service left. Thousands of youth centres have closed. In fact Cameron’s government has closed far more youth centres than the MacMillan government built. Some young people have committed suicide as result of the withdrawal of these services.
So the Youth Service has not faced austerity, it has experienced ruin. The ChooseYouth campaign is undeterred by this shock tactic of destruction over the last four years when the world’s first and most admired Youth Service has disappeared. The one service that young people built in the public sector for themselves with skilled advice to offer comfort, support, informal learning, guidance, adventure, fun and social involvement was attacked as youth unemployment rose, mental health issues for young men increased, youth on youth violence escalated, rioting hit the streets and higher education was made unaffordable to many.
Society cannot continue along this path and despite the recent autumn statement which announced effectively of a doubling of public sector cuts ChooseYouth will intensify its campaigning work. Conditions for young people and their educational opportunities have to be publicly funded. This is why we are calling for votes at sixteen a massive campaign of voter registration for 18 year olds and a rebuilt, publicly funded youth service staffed by professionally qualified JNC youth workers with their job title protected in statute. Such workers will support civic engagement and enable young people to lead a renewed sense of commitment to a social and economic future that values our young people first and foremost.”
Perhaps one of the new young Croydon Councillors will set up a Scrutiny mini-review into youth services in the Borough?
Note: Thoughts on youth services can be read in YOUNG PEOPLE AS PART OF OUR COMMUNITY. A Discussion Paper by Croydon resident and Lambeth youth worker Tim Saunders and myself in 2006 at http://www.rcdt.org/youth.asp.