Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

A view from the Cabinet Youth Policy Team

Cabinet OfficeLast week, the Youth Work Unit (YWU) was back at the heart of the Yorkshire & Humber region hosting a session with Richard Benstead from the Cabinet Youth Policy Team.

Over recent months the YWU’s regular networks and strategic meetings have fallen away with the pressures on Local Authorities (LAs) and voluntary sector bodies alike. Some are no longer able to subscribe to the YWU and others are often under pressure to remain within their organisation not using time or money to travel to external events.

However last week saw 13 of the region’s LA youth services, as well as two youth work HEIs and a range of voluntary organisations come to learn more from the Cabinet Office (CO) about their role, given their responsibility for youth policy from summer 2013. Those present included a Director of Children’s Services, Assistant Directors, Heads of Service, VYS CEOs, course leaders and others all interested and concerned about the current state of youth work and youth services particularly given the current issues facing young people.

Richard had been pleased to accept the YWU’s invitation as he seeks to learn more about youth services by meeting with those involved both strategically, and practically from all across the country. He informed those present that the CO Youth Policy team was made up of 12 people, a mix of civil servants and others bringing external experience, though none from a youth work background. The team works closely with a number of  Government Departments, and are also focusing on the National Citizen Service (NCS), on vulnerable young people, on Local Services and on evidence and impact measurement.

Specifically, Richard presented the key themes to emerge from the survey carried out in November 2013 into the LA statutory duty ‘to secure services and activities for young people aged 13 – 19 to improve their well-being’. I thought others may be interested in these too. In brief the main themes to emerge from the survey were:

  • The statutory duty – most felt the current guidance lacks specificity and could be more helpful, however this is unlikely to change in the next 18 months before an election. Others had suggested that the duty be reinforced e.g. by Ofsted inspections but again it was acknowledged that this was unlikely rather the survey report due out would provide some good practice examples.
  • Funding – the survey returns are seen as less than perfect in providing accurate information on spend on youth services. The survey financial information showed deep cuts, shifts from universal services to targeted services and reductions in LAs providing services in house.
  • Innovation – only two youth mutuals have so far emerged generally the way forward was seen as more collaborative working with the VYS.
  • Measurement – the CO have been discussing support with various agencies so that peer review and support, resources and commissioning expertise, for example, can be made more available; as well as looking at how to help broker relationships e.g. with the voluntary youth sector to help develop and sustain relationships.
  • Youth Voice – CO work with BYC and the range of youth voice vehicles that they support at a local level and acknowledge that the CO can learn from LAs here and do more to meaningfully engage with young people. Youth audit does not seem to feature highly across LAs despite being highlighted in the guidance and the CO see a role in promoting this.
  • Outcomes – while CO are not looking to specify what these should be or which tools should be used to measure them, they are nonetheless keen that LAs and others can evidence the difference that youth work makes as this will ensure future investment.
  • Transparency – this was seen to link with Youth Voice and outcomes so that local communities, in line with the localism agenda, could make informed decisions about youth provision and also about cuts to local provision.
  • Workforce skills – firstly the survey suggested more could be done to assist those involved in commissioning youth services and also with joint commissioning. Further to this, the youth workforce also needed support to improve performance and in both cases the CO was looking to find ways to support the sector to take initiatives to make improvements e.g. Institute of Youth Work.

Following Richard’s presentation there was an open, robust and broad discussion which covered strengthening the duty, localism, outcomes and measurement, historic evidence, NCS, etc but there was also a clear reality check about what could be expected from a government with the current focus on austerity, on NCS as a flagship policy, on reducing the state and on localism, outcomes and evidence. While this may not have been what people wanted to hear, it was helpful to those planning and designing local services to have a clear understanding of the CO position and direction.

Miriam Jackson CEO Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and the Humber

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This entry was posted on March 17, 2014 by in Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire & the Humber and tagged , , , , , .
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