A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
This week, I was with the Cabinet Office youth team discussing the Local Authority (LA) statutory duty. Following their survey of LAs in November, they are now preparing a report on this, due out around February / March time. The Cabinet Office assumed responsibility for youth policy, including youth work, back in July 2013 and are keen to get a baseline appreciation of what is happening across the country, particularly given the current pressures on public finances.
Since 2006, LAs have had a statutory duty to secure services and activities for young people which would support their positive growth and development and successful transition into adulthood.
This duty was re-iterated by the current Government in DFE guidance issued in summer 2012. However, this is not subject to inspection or checked on, other than by the section 251 financial return – which has long been thought inadequate in giving real information about youth services. Youth services have therefore been seen by some as a soft target for cutbacks. I am pleased therefore that the Cabinet Office wants to learn what is happening to young people’s services across the country, and I further hope that their interest may help LAs to protect and continue to fund youth provision.
I am clear that all LAs should take a lead and have in place a strategy to secure the best possible offer of a range and mix of provision to improve outcomes for young people. They should be working closely with the voluntary youth sector and a range of other bodies eg police, health, and with local communities to bring budgets together and secure the delivery of a range of provision.
Another critical feature of the duty is the voice and influence of young people. LAs should ensure that there are mechanisms in place to hear young people’s views and to support them in being involved in shaping appropriate provision and in maintaining checks as to its quality and relevance. Additionally, LAs should publish annually both their offer and young people’s feedback.
This Government has recognised the need for young people to transition from children to adulthood and have established their flagship National Citizenship Scheme as their key funded initiative for young people. Surely, this is youth work by another name and particular model and although somewhat irritating, nevertheless we can embrace this endorsement of the need for such programmes other than school education to help prepare young people for life.
Curriculum for Life
The current UKYP Curriculum for Life campaign seeks to improve school based PHSE. I believe essentially that good youth work delivers a Curriculum for Life – and while improvements to school based PHSE should be sought nonetheless this campaign can be seen as an endorsing youth work. That is the provision of a broad range of youth involving and youth focused activities, which supports and builds young people’s capacity to face all of life’s future challenges.
So LAs, should, I believe be responsible for a strategic plan and offer of a broad range of youth provision, open access and targeted or specialist, to young people in their areas, in this they need to involve and listen to young people, work with the broadest range of funders and providers and then ensure quality with strong underpinning training and measuring quality and impact with tools and measures.
The guidance is weak in terms of what a sufficient offer might look like and only speaks of what is reasonably practicable. This, against the current financial climate, has allowed severe cuts to youth provision. Perhaps the Cabinet Office may give more robust guidance here, but if DCSs, Lead members and youth facing services care about their young citizens even the current duty can provide a framework of key elements which they should put in place.
As a working adult I have money to access pubs, restaurants, cinemas theatres etc, I drive and so can get about and I also have my own living space where I can also choose to do what I want. How much more limiting is a young person’s social life; with little money, unable to access many social spaces because of their age, living where someone else sets the rules, reliant on buses or lifts. Part of growing up is about having fun, exploring new ideas and challenges, meeting friends and new people, and finding your own way – we must ensure that we preserve the spaces and activities and the people who can support this journey.
CEO Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and the Humber