A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
As I write, we are still waiting to hear how the Ministerial responsibilities will be distributed at DfE after the government ‘shuffle’. We don’t yet know who will be in charge of policy for young people, part of the brief previously held by Tim Loughton. A significant question, I suppose, is ‘does it matter?’.
After all, the Government is the Government, right? And they have policy priorities, right? And it’s clear that the priority for the Department for Education is restructuring the way schools are managed, what is taught and how it is examined. Work with young people outside of formal education is rarely a major policy priority. So does it make a difference whether David Laws, Edward Timpson or Liz Truss ends up being the lead for work with young people?
In the last decade or so we have had more Ministers with the ‘youth’ brief than I can actually remember. Few of them have made much impact, or been there long enough to introduce a significant initiative or policy shift. Often this junior ministership has simply been a stopping off point on the way to more senior roles in other departments, and with a few honourable exceptions – including the outgoing Minister, Tim Loughton, Ministers rarely develop more than a passing understanding of what happens in work with young people.
So will a new Minister make a difference? Policy-wise, s/he will pick up an overall framework in the shape of ‘Positive for Youth’, and the newly revised Statutory Guidance for local authorities on services to promote young people’s well-being. Tim Loughton was determined that young people should have strong voices in shaping services and policies, not just for youth services, but in wider policy on issues that affect their lives, including transport and education options.
Young people from the South West have been actively involved in discussions with Ministers and civil servants, making the case for reduced fares and better services in public transport to enable young people to participate in education, employment and wider activities. I hope these forums are now sufficiently established to carry on without their ministerial champion, though I know that British Youth Council and other youth organisations, including the Network of Regional Youth Work Units will do their utmost to ensure that young people’s voice vehicles, locally, regionally and nationally continue to grow and be effective.
It takes time to develop sufficient understanding of a sector to be able to design a sensible policy framework. The youth sector is probably one of the more complex sectors, with lots of different, and sometimes competing, voices from organisations, young people and the professionals who work with them.
I hope the new Minister, whoever it is, is able to take that time and get to know this vibrant, positive and challenging sector, and understand how the work we do makes a difference in young people’s lives. Regional Youth Work Units will be happy to provide opportunities for the new Ministerial team to meet groups of young people, youth workers and youth organisations, learn about what they are doing, and engage them in debate.
South West Regional Youth Work Unit