Services for young people - Education Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 169-219)

Janet Batsleer, Tony Gallagher, Dr Howard and Dr Jason Wood

9 March 2011

  Q169 Chair: Good morning. Thank you very much to the four of you for joining us today to help us in our inquiry into services for young people. You're bringing academic research and understanding—a bright light to shine on this area—and we're very grateful for that. If we could have succinct answers, that would help us to make progress. More to the point, in this Committee it is not predominantly the witnesses who slow things down but the long questions, so I ask my colleagues to keep their questions short as well.

  I shall open the session by asking whether you have a sense of what has happened to youth services over time. I know that covers so many things, from amateur sports clubs to organised music activities, volunteering and organised activities in museums. From your work, do you have any sense of whether qualitatively or quantitatively—we're looking at young people aged 13 to 25 in our inquiry—youth services are better or worse than they were, say, 20 years ago?

  Tony Gallagher: It's important to remind ourselves of the landscape in youth work. In Ofsted's experience in looking at provision over the years, what you see is young people at points of crisis receiving intense help. You see young people who may be joining youth work activities for five, six or seven weeks and who gain new skills. They move on to youth councils, youth forums and so on. You see those who dip in and out, enjoy themselves, meet friends and spend time with adults, and you see also those who stick with it for years and years. They grow as young volunteers; they take on new responsibilities. So the point it's important to make is that the broad picture and the broad landscape of youth work need to be represented in that broad fashion.

  Q170 Chair: Do you have a sense, however you want to delineate it—there are different areas—of change over time? Are things better or worse?

  Dr Williamson: There has been a significant diversification of services. Twenty or perhaps 30 years ago, you obviously had post-Albemarle youth centres, but I guess in the last 20 years we've seen a massive increase in focus on social inclusion, disadvantage, drugs, teenage pregnancy, youth participation and citizenship—a whole range of new initiatives, broadening theoretical access for a broader group of young people to such services, beyond the scouts, the guides, the boys brigade and some of the traditional local authority youth clubs. I'll explain what the big issue is for me. Are things better or worse? I'm not a fan of targeting in and of itself, but I do think that if you're not careful and if you leave everything to voluntary engagement, you will increase opportunities for already included kids.

  Janet Batsleer: One of things that happened in the last period was a very strong focus on targeting. Clearly, the voluntary organisations have remained and grown in strength. The faith-based organisations have moved into a strong position in the sector. The work that is at risk, as a result of the period in which targeting has been the methodology, is the open access, generic—what we call universal access—provision, which is not so necessary for those parts of society accessing the faith organisations, the scouts and the guides, but if we are imagining that this is part of a vision of one society, then it is those young people in the disadvantaged communities who need that open access, generic provision. There is quite a deal of evidence of that being lost over recent years. So depending on how you assess good and bad, I would say let's bend the stick back now towards that more open access, club-based approach—towards the idea of a club really, of being a member, of belonging. These seem to be incredibly important, non-stigmatising things for all young people.

  Dr Wood: I share many of those sentiments, but I would also add to it. Your question was about to what extent services have improved.

  Q171 Chair: Or deteriorated.

  Dr Wood: Yes, we see the quality and standards of youth work rising, in terms of the quality of graduates going into the field and so on. Even where there is this emphasis on targeted work, youth workers are making valuable contributions in these areas. I don't want to diminish that, I want to recognise that there is a youth work contribution in reducing negative outcomes for young people, which is not necessarily a different point from the one Janet was making, but adds to it.

  Q172 Chair: My point was about change over time. Where are we now? Because it is so hard so far. Have we got a system that is stronger? Okay, there has been a great focus on targeting, to the loss of the universal, which might mean even in its own terms that it is reaching the disadvantaged—it might be suggested that it is a less effective system. There is always this balance between universal and targeting. Over time, with our youth services collectively—the opportunities for young people outside school, which is what we are looking at—are they better than they were 10 or 20 years ago, or are they worse? Or is that an impossible question to answer?

  Tony Gallagher: It's a good question.

  Chair: I'm looking for an answer of better or worse.

  Tony Gallagher: I don't think, Chair, you are going to get a straight answer. I think it is different.

  Looking back, our inspections ended in 2008. Between 2006 and 2008, we saw an improvement in the quality of local authority youth services—they were getting better. The caveat is that between 2008 and now, life has become so different. Youth services as such do not exist always in the same way. There has been integration in the past couple of years, and commissioning is now taking place. So it is quite important to understand where we are now.

  Yes, we saw improvements over a number of years—I can give you more detail, if you wish, up until 2008 when our inspection regime finished. We carry on looking at themes, through our survey programme in youth work in local authorities and the voluntary sector, but I think the debate is about this new situation we now find ourselves in.

  Q173 Chair: Which is what we are going to move on to. I tried to see if I could get a quick snapshot view as to whether there were some halcyon days, 30 years ago, when everyone was engaged and looked after, with today being awful, or something like that—I just wanted some sense of movement over time.

  Dr Williamson: If you look at photographs from the 1950s of youth clubs, they are absolutely jam-packed with young people having good leisure time. The expectations of youth services have increased dramatically in terms of what services for young people are meant to be achieving—non-formal learning, personal development and those sorts of things. Theoretically, young people in British society now have access to a repertoire of possibility, but the problem is that some young people, probably those who we in this room are concerned most about, who do not beat a path to those doors, get left behind. The youth divide between the included and those outside widens.

  Q174 Craig Whittaker: I'm a bit of a simple guy. I don't quite get it. I do not understand the question. Is it better or is it not? That seemed to be quite a simple question. The evidence is that we have more than 1 million NEETs. We have the highest teenage pregnancy in Europe so, to my simple mind, that would indicate that we are failing in this area.

  What we do know and what we have heard from young people is that they definitely feel positive impacts from youth services, but we are yet to uncover any researched evidence to that effect. What major studies exist on the value and impact of youth services, and what do they include?

  Janet Batsleer: Can I separate out the issues? The impact of NEETs and the impact of teenage pregnancy are not the essential points that we are struggling for.

  Q175 Craig Whittaker: But aren't they all—

  Janet Batsleer: Well, they are, but not in the direct way that you want to imagine they might be. Perhaps you can think of the impact of youth work in relation to the impact of schools, and whether you would assess a school in relation to those targets. Does it reduce NEETs? Does it reduce teenage pregnancy? On the whole, we do not as a society assess schools directly in relation to those targets because we know that schools are there to produce better-educated citizens. We know that youth work is there to produce opportunities for the personal, social and spiritual development of young people so that they reach their potential outside of the school system through activities that they join in their leisure time.

  To understand the impact of youth work on those things, a number of major studies show evidence, which I am sure my colleagues can point you to: the work being done by Joseph Rowntree on detached work, work done by Durham university on youth work as a practice and work that has been done on the participation of citizenship by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. A number of studies will enable us to understand the impact of youth work.

  I want to guide the Committee away from attempting to assess the impact of youth work directly in terms of its impact on the NEET figures or the teenage pregnancy figures, which of course we are right to be concerned about.

  Q176 Craig Whittaker: Just so I understand, are you saying that they are a detached thing, so school is completely detached from youth services or are you saying that it should be a co-ordinated affair, which it currently is not?

  Janet Batsleer: Clearly, it needs to be co-ordinated. That is my view. Plenty of evidence suggests that there needs to be linkage between all the places where young people live their lives and engage positively with adults.

  Q177 Craig Whittaker: So the NEETs and the teenage pregnancies do have a bearing on youth services.

  Janet Batsleer: Yes, and there are studies that explore that. Howard can talk to us about them.

  Dr Williamson: The big De Montfort research on youth work usefully and reasonably simply draws attention to the contribution of youth work to personal change that then produces what they call positional change. I always feel a bit boxed in by the company that is here because, although I am an academic, I was an open youth work practitioner for 30 years.

  Janet Batsleer: I think we all were.

  Dr Williamson: Yes, but probably not for quite as long as that. I am still in touch with a lot of those people. Those in the oldest group are now 50 years old, and there are still recollections of things that were done through the youth work experience as teenagers to which they draw my attention that shifted their thinking around careers, crime and a range of different things. But whether you can tie youth work intervention tightly to reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training—sorry, I detest the acronym—and reducing teenage pregnancy, I do not know.

  I remember having a really practical challenge with a group of skateboarders, who were a flipping nuisance in the neighbourhood. I talked to an ex-youth club lad, by chance, and I told him this problem. He said, "Howard, you never stopped us doing anything, but you slowed us down and made us think." I felt quite proud of the remark that he had made. I am still in touch with him. He is 50, and I have supported him throughout his life on a whole range of different things.

  Another one of my soundbites is "critical people at critical moments", meaning that when you've got a youth worker—not necessarily a professional youth worker, but somebody working with young people, preferably trained and skilled—they know how to respond to young people. If it is your young woman at risk of teenage pregnancy or your young person at risk of dropping out, they know how to sign-post them to support and they sustain the support. They are the glue that connects those things.

  Q178Chair: I'd like to follow Craig—not his provocative beginning, but his question on studies and what they conclude. We are trying to get a sense of the evidence base on the effectiveness of youth work.

  Dr Williamson: I did a great deal of work for the European Commission, trying to look at studies across Europe. Of course, there are studies at many different levels. There are a few gold standard studies, funded by major research institutions. Then there are a lot of local studies, and a great number of studies produced by Fairbridge, the Prince's Trust and charities.

  Q179 Chair: Hit us with some findings.

  Dr Williamson: The studies talk about cost—the economic benefits—and they talk about the social benefits, and by and large the conclusion is that youth workers don't transform people's lives, but they make a significant contribution to reshaping young people's lives, giving them a different path to the future.

  Dr Wood: One of the things to acknowledge is that there is a wide range of evidence available across the piece. Often, what's been said outside is that there's not a lot of evidence of the impact of youth work, when the reverse is true. It is everywhere. It is usually locally collected, because services are locally delivered, and it crosses all sorts of domains.

  Q180Craig Whittaker: Sorry to interrupt you there, but wouldn't it be fair to say that although there is a plethora of pockets of evidence, they are quite limited in scope?

  Dr Wood: Of course. The follow-through point is that we need a better sense of how we synthesise that evidence—how we bring together a more convincing case on what the impact of youth work is.

  We were asked specifically about what major studies exist. The 2004 one, to which Howard referred, was on the impact of youth work, commissioned by the Department for Education and conducted at De Montfort. The big findings that come out of that are that youth work has a measurable impact on all sorts of soft skills—things that are perhaps hard to measure, and that may in turn have an impact on school attendance, engagement in the community and so on. The key messages there are that young people value those experiences, in building their confidence and self-esteem, and in being able to gain a voice and influence in the communities in which they live. In response to Craig's point about interconnectedness, that study also found that youth workers were making a contribution to a range of other policy objectives, but there was a primary purpose of personal and social education, and the consequence and effect of that was some impact on those other areas that you were talking about.

  Q181Craig Whittaker: Let me come back to that. Given the statement that a lot of these reports are quite limited in focus, is it not time that we did a national survey or a national report on youth services?

  Dr Wood: I'm excited by that prospect. Of course I am, because I'm a researcher and a youth worker by background as well. There is a call to do something systematic and large-scale that helps us understand the impact of youth work. The world has moved on significantly—you were describing the past 50 years—and even since the 2004 impact study, our approaches to evaluations, and the ways in which we engage young people in the processes of evaluation, have moved on. There is a lot to be learned from that process. I have been giving some thought to how that might look and how we might conduct such an impact study.

  Q182 Craig Whittaker: Howard, you mentioned the work around Europe. Are any European countries better at researching and evaluating youth services, and if so, why?

  Dr Williamson: I know you've been to Finland, although you did not look at the youth work side of things. The Finnish Youth Research Society is phenomenally well resourced by the Ministry of Education and Culture in Helsinki. Part of its package of activity is looking at various kinds of youth programmes in Finland, but it is exceptional. Largely, research studies of youth work per se are pretty few and far between—sometimes we are talking about youth work, and sometimes we are talking about services for young people; we must be careful about separating those out.

  Q183 Craig Whittaker: Jason, can I ask you about the Department's 2004 study on the impact of youth work, which concluded that the sector needed to get better at measuring, and making the case for the benefits of youth work? Has it changed since then?

  Dr Wood: I can give you some views on what I think has changed. Since 2004 and that impact study, lots of work has been done to support local authorities and, in many services, to capture impact better. For example, tools are out there, and there are approaches that areas can use to demonstrate the impact of youth services. They can draw on young people's perceptions of change, on distance travelled, and on parent, community and school views, and so on. That approach is becoming better. Do I know the current landscape, in terms of the extent to which people are capturing outcomes? No, because we do not have that national study.

  Input data—the data that should drive needs—are very strong. The fact that we can all quote NEETs, the number of teenage pregnancies and the number of young people who are parents shows that we can indicate input data—the numbers going in. We are also good at counting outputs; we can say "This many people have a certificate in this", or "This many people attended this number of provisions for this length of time." We need to get stronger at looking at the outcomes and at how we see what an outcome looks like when somebody has been involved in youth work.

  Q184 Craig Whittaker: So there are pockets of good work, but nothing national.

  Dr Wood: My sense is that it is not national, but my colleagues may have a different view.

  Janet Batsleer: I wonder if I could raise a caveat that relates to the Tired of Hanging Around study from the Audit Commission. We are talking about a small level of resource that is at the disposal of youth services. One of the problems that the Audit Commission identified under the previous Administration was the amount of red tape, bureaucracy and collection of data that was required in relation to multiple funding streams, which were then not analysed. Practitioners were tied up in that kind of activity for about a third of their time.

  If we are going down the measurement road—and, of course, people who give money go down that road—I wonder if it is worth looking at what the Charity Commission expects in auditing and responses to our status as charities. You are asking, "Better or worse?" In our recent experience, which is absolutely evidenced, worse is this business of multiple funding streams with multiple accountabilities, which require multiple forms of data collection at micro-level. In the end, those data prove what 40 years of research has already demonstrated—that personal, social and spiritual developmental opportunities for young people are of value to our society, and that we value them in much the same way as other nations value such opportunities.

  Dr Williamson: There is a different research question: what do young people need in the modern world to equip them with the confidence and competence to function positively and responsibly in labour markets, civil society and personal family life? That is what the question should be.

  I once asked people to write down a list of what young people needed, and historically—which is the Chairman's question, in a sense—most of those things were served by families and schools. Now, with new technologies and a range of other things, such as mobility and languages, there is a set of other things that young people need. Most people agree on a list of about 10 different things, and research supports that. Once we can produce that list, we have to ask: how do they get it? Most young people in British society still get it largely through the good offices of their parents and their school. Some young people don't get it, and they get left behind. My view is that public services for young people have to reach out more robustly to the young people who don't get away from home experiences, through international exchanges or suchlike, to encourage them to access those things. Otherwise, they get trapped in localism, homophobia, racism and so on.

  Q185 Chair: You've whipped us forward. We are making good progress, but we will come to outcomes later. Jason, you said that you had been giving some thought to this study. Can you succinctly share that with us?

  Dr Wood: Rapidly, yes.

  Q186 Chair: We do inquiries, write reports and give them to Government, who are obliged to respond. The key element of what we do is recommendations to Government, so don't leave here today with something that you clearly want the Government to do without articulating it in a way that might be reflected in our report.

  Dr Wood: I think there is scope to undertake some sort of meta-analysis of the reports that exist out there. I think the literature is vast and varied, and the academic community would welcome an opportunity to look at that. That would then inform the framework for a national impact evaluation of youth services, which in my mind looks something like a national survey of local authority funded provision. That may be 150 local authorities, or it might be a sample thereof.

  Q187 Chair: Who should do this study, and who should pay for it?

  Dr Wood: Obviously, I would say De Montfort university, in consort with my peers. Universities that have youth work research and training units would be the best-placed organisations to do this, because we see evaluation as a mechanism for understanding and investigating impact, but we also seek to develop learning as a result of that, so we would see that informing the teaching of youth workers and also influencing the local authorities who participated. I have prepared some notes that I can leave with the Committee on how that might look.

  Q188 Chair: Excellent. Thank you very much. Tony, I know you've been bursting to come in.

  Tony Gallagher: I share Craig's pragmatic view of life. I don't look at these things from an academic point of view particularly, but Ofsted goes out and we see what happens. We meet youngsters and we meet workers. To go back to the issue about young people not in employment, it is entirely reasonable to ask those questions. Youth services are one of a bundle of services that contribute to that. If I am a youth worker working on a Friday night, it is very hard to relate to that national target. Be assured that in the work that we see—the face-to-face work—we see youngsters' resilience, and their ability to communicate better and actually engage with something in the locality. These small but important steps are out there. I think it's probably fair to say that there is a lot of convincing evidence that those things happen with youngsters. The extent to which that has a knock-on effect on teenage pregnancy rates is a bigger question, but a valid question nevertheless.

  Chair: Excellent. Over to Nick.

  Q189 Nic Dakin: One of the new Government's flagship programmes for young people is the national citizen service. How would you set the parameters for evaluating the effectiveness of that now, at the start?

  Janet Batsleer: I'm very excited about the national citizen service. I would say that you have to think about how to engage and recognise that you're going to engage all your people. If you're calling it a national service, it needs to mean that. You need to get some indicators about whether young people between the ages of 16 to 18 have been able to access this opportunity, which is an opportunity that is really recognisable to youth workers, in terms of the residential experience.

  In many families—I would speak for my own family—young people have had the opportunity to access those kinds of residential experiences through music, sport, the Duke of Edinburgh award and so on. There are a group of young people who will access that kind of experience only if they are supported through the kinds of engagement that voluntary youth work enables. Youth clubs enable. Youth projects in local areas enable. Importantly, detached youth work enables. You would have to evaluate in quantitative terms whether you had in fact reached young people across that age cohort. We will be able to do that because of the 2000 birth cohort study. You would then have to think about what it is you are aspiring to through a programme of that kind.

  One of the things I believe you are aspiring to do is give the young people of the nation the message that they are of worth, that they belong, that they are already citizens, that you recognise their ability to contribute to one another and, specifically, as I understand it through the scheme, a sense of integration in society. So there could be the opportunity for young people from Longsight—the neighbourhood in Manchester with which I am very familiar—perhaps to meet young people from Kensington and Chelsea; you have somebody from there speaking to the Committee in the next session, I believe. That would be part of a residential experience, thus building networks, and the sense of belonging and connection. I would explore—and you would be able to do this through counting and, more interestingly, through qualitative approaches—to what extent a serious intervention of this kind contributes to a growth of a sense of belonging among young people.

  Dr Wood: I would add to that that there are probably important lessons to be learned from the NFER evaluations of citizenship education, a longitudinal study looking at how attitudes and experience changed over time as a result of citizenship programmes. The strength of that work is that it points to community-based volunteering—the volunteering that creates experiential learning—as the strongest. It would be worth drawing on that body of work to inform monitoring and evaluation of these activities.

  It is also important not just to accept the instrumental change that you would see in young people, which is the immediate impact of a project. You might look at something in the moment and say, "They are doing x number of hours of activity; that is a successful outcome for the national citizenship service." I would be asking, "What are the longer-term impacts? How are inter-generational relationships improving in local communities? Are young people less isolated? Are they less intruded on by police and residents and so on?"

  Q190 Chair: How would you do that?

  Dr Wood: How? It would be a case of trying to take a particular cohort of that group and revisit those cohorts over time.

  Q191 Chair: Do you have any understanding of whether the Government have plans to do such a thing?

  Dr Wood: I don't know very much about the plans for the NCS evaluation.

  Q192 Nic Dakin: Generally speaking, so far during this inquiry, I think we have got the impression that everybody knows what good youth work is when they see it. There is part of an argument—and I think Janet was going there a little—that says, "Let's just crack on with it." The resource and time spent measuring it could be spent getting on and doing it. Is that a cop-out, or is it a reasonable argument that we ought to take cognisance of?

  Tony Gallagher: It's not a cop-out. The reality is that youth work in the country is provided by volunteers—the backbone of it—and part-time workers. There is a cornucopia of people who contribute. In terms of the "so what?" question—what is the social impact of this?—I have to stress that there is no one simple answer. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that where it works well—and it doesn't always—we see youngsters engaged, they keep coming back, there is good retention. You can see progress over time: they can do things now that they couldn't three months ago. You can see adults around them understanding the development of these youngsters. You see that mix, if you like, that hopefully will have a knock-on effect on future resilience and ability.

  Yes, I am afraid that is a messy answer in a sense, but that is the way of this very rich sector—local authority, voluntary sector and what have you. That mosaic is important. I am not ducking the question. We have plenty of evidence. There's evidence around C4EO—the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People's Services—which has done some good sector-led work recently about the case study. Look at a couple of particular cases. Don't just tell the story, but get below the case study to see the progress these youngsters have made. I would argue that there is evidence around that, and it isn't straightforward.

  Dr Williamson: Can I just support the national citizenship service? 20 years ago, I wrote a paper about the case for a national community service programme. I think it's a good start, but I would like to see it broadened into formal schooling as an element of young people's learning, development and contribution. It is too short at the moment. It has bottled out of the question of compulsion, because the ultimate acid test of the national citizens service—or programme, or scheme, or whatever we call it—is the social integration achievement that it produces. If it ends up being an option taken by only a certain group of young people in our society, it might be a wonderful thing to talk about in terms of community activity, and so on, but it won't have achieved its primary purpose. That purpose, I think, is the one that used to prevail in other forms of national service, which is to provide a shared experience that people could talk about. That is absolutely critical in an increasingly divided society—connecting young people to each other, and connecting young people to generations.

  Q193 Nic Dakin: The panel answered two of my questions at the same time, which is an interesting, innovative approach. Janet, should we just get on with it and trust the people who get the money, and not spend all this time worrying?

  Janet Batsleer: Don't reflect back so much as move forward. We are picking up on Howard's point about what kind of further studies might be done, and we are saying, "Yes, there is another set of research questions, other than that of impact." In our field of work, we have always had a tradition of research and investigation linked to practice, which was very strong in the detached youth work field. If you were to read back 40 years, you would find projects called "experimental youth work", but nobody would suggest running an experiment on young people now—I hope. The notion of experimental youth work is, "What new things are happening in the world that we need to develop the resource and skills for among our body of practitioners? What new things are happening, and what kind of projects, clubs and associations do we need?" You are holding on to the old ideas and cracking on with it, but you are amending and developing them in a deliberative and gradualist way, which, I suppose, is the tradition in education research here.

  Specifically in youth work, there is the notion of projects often supported by national voluntary organisations—I think it's clubs for young people now. If you look back, how many of the innovative practices have been developed in that kind of research practice partnership through detached work? So, crack on with it, but inform yourselves as you're doing so.

  Chair: We need to move on fairly quickly.

  Q194 Pat Glass: We are talking, at least in part, about public money. I appreciate what you're saying, but we must have something that sits between measuring absolutely everything we do, taking all the money and doing that, and a statement that says, "Give us the money and we'll do good work." What we are looking at, and what seems to be missing from the evidence we have had so far, is what difference youth work makes. We need to know in terms of value for money. Is it working?

  Tony, how would Ofsted measure it? In schools, if you see good youth work, you know it—we go in and observe the teacher in the classroom. How does Ofsted judge achievement in terms of youth work?

  Tony Gallagher: Thank you for that. There are two things. First, you would see through various Ofsted reports a level of criticism about targets. Although it is imperative that local authorities and Government understand such questions as how much, how many and how far—

  Q195 Pat Glass: We are talking about outcomes.

  Tony Gallagher: I will get to that. Targets have been helpful in some way in getting to the question of outcomes, but there has been an imbalance in that direction—the direction of targets.

  In terms of outcomes, our approach always has been to engage strongly with the sector, using people, including young people, in the process of observing practice, and of trying to record different forms of achievement—informal achievement, and the more formal achievement through certification and such like. We have a framework in place from the 1980s, which has been updated over a number of years and sets out how young people gain, in terms of their relationships. They learn some of the practical skills of getting better at getting jobs, and they understand all these wider issues. In terms of achievement, the way we went about it was to directly observe practice, set a level of outcome standards that people understood and could relate to, and—

  Q196 Pat Glass: So what kinds of things would those outcome standards be?

  Tony Gallagher: For the outcome standards, in terms of youth work, we measured things such as the number of people involved and, more importantly, the retention—how long they were involved in that sort of activity. There are various simple and effective ways of charting a youngster's progress, either by talking to them, or by documenting—"The things I can do now," "How I feel about myself" and "The things I've learnt over the past four, five or 12 months." So, there is a way of charting that.

  Q197 Pat Glass: Would you use things such as the child's attendance at school, and whether it had improved?

  Tony Gallagher: In the past couple of years, as there's been a move towards the integration of these services, from a youth work point of view there have been some core achievements, which I have mentioned, and also important orbiting achievements, about attendance at school. When we know—we've seen plenty of examples—that a youngster has not been attending school, because the youth worker has got wind of that or the system has allowed the youth worker to understand that, then he or she has worked well with the youngster to address why they are not attending school, meeting with them in their informal time and dealing with those sorts of issues. Increasingly, the youth service and youth workers are part of that bigger picture, for sure.

  Q198 Pat Glass: Do you think that there's a greater role for that? I've come across schemes that kids really want to be on, but the youth workers make it very clear that if you do not attend school and do not meet your targets, you're not on the scheme. That's a way of improving those children's outcomes. Do you think there's a role for that, and that it should be increased?

  Dr Williamson: I think that that produces the problem of defining exactly what we're talking about when we're talking about youth work. I'm not always a supporter of the cherished value of voluntarism, but at the moment youth work is defined as a voluntary engagement. We might want to debate that. You talk about schemes, and some people would say that such schemes—the kind I think you're referring to—are not actually youth work; they are other kinds of programmes with different objectives and purposes, and are time limited—

  Q199 Pat Glass: So it should not be publicly funded?

  Janet Batsleer: It might be funded by another department.

  Dr Williamson: Yes. I once said that youth work was an act of faith not an act of science and that has haunted me most of my life, but I also argue that it's like looking for the holy grail to be searching for impact measures from what is sometimes a brief encounter with youth work, sometimes a leisure-based encounter over a period of time and sometimes a serious encounter over a long period. I often said that you can turn people around in 24 hours if you have enough professional discretion and flexibility to give them support with the police, schools, families or whatever it is. But sometimes it takes six years. We simply do not know.

  What we should be looking at though is the quality of offer, of the intervention that is made. I think that there is too much youth work, not just in the UK but in many other places, that we would want to not exist because it doesn't do young people many services. We need to be looking at the quality of intervention that is made. From an inspectorate point of view, that is pretty hard, but you can go into youth projects—

  Q200 Chair: But if they can't do it, who can? If I follow you correctly, you have just suggested that there are some services that we really shouldn't be offering, which are taking up scarce public finance. Tony's job is to go and identify that. Where are they, where is his analysis going wrong, and how do we root them out so that we can put more money into those things that do add value?

  Dr Williamson: If we look at the Nordic countries, they publicly fund youth work that is self-governed by young people—it is youth organisations. All you have to have is a membership, and you get funded according to that. That is based on the political belief that youth organisations, in running themselves, produce certain kinds of citizenship and public participation impacts.

  Q201 Pat Glass: In these times of tight public finances, we need a little more than faith. The arguments that have been given are the same as those that I've heard over many years in relation to many other services. I have had this conversation with teachers. I don't care how many deaf children you see, I want to know: what difference does it make to their GCSE results? I am looking for outcomes that we can measure, so that we know that what is going in is good value for money and that it makes a difference to the child's life.

  Dr Williamson: And over what time frame you seek to measure it.

  Q202 Pat Glass: And over what time frame we need to measure it.

  Dr Wood: I would also insert the multifaceted nature of young people's lives, and the fact that they are going through a period of transition. It is really hard to know what services and relationships—

  Q203 Pat Glass: Exactly the same arguments are made to me by an EBD school.

  Dr Wood: I understand.

  Q204 Pat Glass: Measuring the cost of an intervention is very difficult, but it is about, how do we do that? Is the work of organisations such as the Prince's Trust, which has tried to do it, useful and should it be used more widely?

  Dr Wood: When collected together, the material becomes a compelling case for youth work. There are studies that show impacts. There are people who have tracked young people over a longer period, who have tried to break down the multifaceted nature of impact. On the impact of detached youth work, the National Youth Agency has looked at reporting figures of antisocial behaviour in the community and community perceptions of crime and safety. There is a measurable difference in that respect. Poor school attendance is often a proxy measure for the impact of youth work. We need to look at these things. I do not want to close down that debate. I think it is worth having and worth looking at.

  Q205 Chair: But if we close down the debate and come up with a basket of measures, which will inevitably be criticised by many for its shortcomings because nothing's perfect, but stick with it for a while and say, "We can't review it for five years," wouldn't that help to provide some clarity and allow people to deliver? We could measure some outcomes—that the children are happy and value what they get. That would be pretty important. You could have another basket of measures, and say, "Right, deliver on that and public funding continues." At the moment, we have incoherence as to what value is being delivered, which is one of the problems when there is little money.

  Janet Batsleer: I think that we'll need clarity about at what level you want the measures, because making measures at local authority level makes a lot of sense. It makes much less sense to make the measures at the level of the individual child or young person. That has to be thought through. Ofsted makes those measures at the level of local authority provision, and it has specific ways of doing that. I think that it may be that other criteria could be built into the Ofsted or JAR processes, and I would suggest that the social contribution to a sense of belonging is a very important impact to explore. As Howard says, social integration is an important one to explore. Of course you can count it, because you can count the number of 16 to 18 or 21-years-olds in your neighbourhood, and you can know how many young people are benefitting from the offer being made around citizenship.

  Q206 Ian Mearns: Young people are different year on year. They are complex individuals, and in groups they could be even more complex, but schools are expected to be measured against the outcomes for a particular cohort. Can youth work not be done measured on outcomes for particular cohorts?

  Tony Gallagher: Can I come back to my opening statement that tried to describe the landscape of youth work? Some youngsters get a very deep experience at a point of crisis; we have seen that and it helps them. Others are involved for seven years, grow with it and move on. If only it were as simple as an institution with four walls and set targets, which is the way schools and colleges are. It is a heck of a lot easier to do. That is not shirking the question for a minute. On the notion of a cohort, in fact, only a small percentage of youngsters choose to be involved in these services.

  I argue that there are better ways of doing it. We could sample it—let's look at samples. The notion of a cohort, given the landscape I described, is something that I would find quite difficult, and I think that colleagues here would probably find it methodologically difficult.

  Q207 Ian Mearns: Tony, with respect, many schools are measured against the performance of other schools. Some schools have significant churn in their cohort, but they are not given any credit for that within the Ofsted measurement process.

  Tony Gallagher: Yes, we can do that. For example, there is the whole notion of benchmarking, which is how well authority X is doing against authority Y. We have used those mechanisms in the past, but they are now less prevalent. There are those harder mechanisms that I think we can use, as long as it is balanced out, in my judgment, with how well the youngsters are progressing, given the landscape that I tried to describe to you. It is incredibly important that we get a grip on the issue of the value for money and what the social return from all of this is. I would encourage the Committee to understand that it is not as straightforward as it would be in an institution. You've got 800 youngsters, if there are 750—

  Q208 Chair: Tony, whatever we are unclear of, we are not unclear about how not straightforward it is.

  Tony Gallagher: I am sure you are not.

  Q209 Damian Hinds: I do not think that there is any dispute among any of you or any of us that having young people engaged in things socially is important, and that there is clear benefit in having inspirational adults in the lives of children, whether that is at school, at home and in other senses, for example when you talked about your particular experience when you managed to, perhaps not stop people doing things, but slow them down. We all sort of recognise that; it points to things in our own youth and people who have had an impact on us. That has always been there in different forms—the scouts, boxing clubs and informal things have been there. But we have more of an industry today, as it were. I'm not sure that in the '50s we would have had such a distinguished group of academics to choose from, for example. If, as a result of all that industry, we have all these brilliant studies, which tell us that everything about youth groups is positive, and yet we have to come back to where Craig started: we have almost the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe and 924,000 young people in what we used to call youth unemployment, surely they are the wrong measures. Discuss.

  Tony Gallagher: I think there are lots of weaknesses in delivery of youth services in the country. They are inconsistent across the country and within services. There is a level of expectation of what youth services can do with a limited resource. Staff are not always properly deployed. Until recently, building stock has been poor and, invariably, services find themselves at the bottom of capital building programmes. So there is a host of weaknesses, which is very important. Ofsted has reported over the years where those inefficiencies and challenges are.

  Q210 Damian Hinds: But the central point is that if all the studies are saying how ace everything is, yet kids are sleeping around and not getting jobs, how ace can it really be?

  Chair: I want a fab answer to that.

  Dr Williamson: There is the huge question of reach, which is about a lot of the most vulnerable young people. That is why detached workers are so important, as are other kinds of work that reach out and go to find young people who are vulnerable and at risk, with a prospect of becoming NEET. That's the problem. If you simply have a whole repertoire of voluntary participative services for young people, those who are supported by parents, motivated and less at risk will be the ones who pass through those doors. Janet's paper to you described the Filip Coussée paradox, but slightly differently from the way Filip Coussée said it himself. He said that youth work that works reaches the wrong kids, and youth work does not reach the kids who would benefit from youth work interventions. That's the paradox, but that's in Flanders.

  Q211 Pat Glass: My background is in education, and for years, youth work was something that went on over there with some other people who were not connected to a school. In recent times, the youth service has been something of a Cinderella service in terms of funding, and it's likely to get worse. The people who are putting up the greatest fight for youth work are schools, because it is the targeted bit. Is that because the schools are seeing the impact of youth services on these non-engaged children and those children who are operating on the margins? Is it because there were some outcomes that the schools could see?

  Tony Gallagher: Our report, "Supporting Young People", which was published last year, looked at the whole business of integration. It pointed out some very good examples in various parts of the country. There were some strong examples in the north-east, where youth service was integral to the "team around the child" idea—working with the schools, the Education Welfare Service and Connexions. If you like, youngsters were always being connected. At weekends and evenings, youth workers knew where they were and were part of a school-based panel. Some schools operated that very well indeed. There was a centrality there to the youth service and to the youth workers and a great added value. There are good models around that, and we can happily illustrate those for you.

  Damian Hinds: I think Jason and Janet were keen to come in.

  Dr Wood: I will be brief. To draw on both those points, I know that information, advice and guidance is not in the purview of this inquiry, but we did an evaluation of the Connexions service. One of the things that we saw was that those single-stranded, targeted, hard approaches of work with young people invariably did not lead to a positive impact. It was the trusting relationship, the flexibility and the multifaceted nature that had the most impact on young people. That is what teachers noticed; they noticed that flexibility and that responsiveness to young people, which somehow sits within and outside a school system.

  Janet Batsleer: I understand the impetus behind the citizenship service is precisely to say, "You are of value. Young people are of value to us as a society. At this point, if you are a young person who is not in work, or who is expecting a baby, you are still of value." I am sure that we would make a difference, if the intervention over time was sustained and if there was a genuine reach of that intervention across the whole of society.

  Q212 Damian Hinds: If we had more time it would be interesting to discuss the use of the words "output" and "outcome". In an earlier discussion, people were describing measures on youth unemployment and teenage pregnancy as input measures. I think that that is fascinating, but that is by the by.

  May I ask a key question, which I believe goes to the nub of this? My Committee colleagues will be aware that I am keen on data analysis, where possible, as a way of prioritising spend and so on. My own take from this morning and from other sessions we have had is that you are on a hiding to nothing by trying to find meaningful, predictive, intermediate data—in other words, the things which would predictively and accurately measure the things that society will really care about in the future. If that is true and there really is not much hope of using data analysis, how should the Government set budgets for the support of youth work? Does it come down to, as Nick rightly said, the fact that most people know what is right when they see it, so the only thing you can do is set a number, whatever it is, and devolve the budget and decision making to a level where people can go out and see it, rather than trying to measure these things with a clever formula?

  Dr Williamson: We tried to do this many years ago. In 1994, I wrote a paper called "Planning for a Sufficient Youth Service." It was based on a provisional framework of thinking that perhaps one third of the population of young people aged between 13 and 19 should be entitled to 100 hours of non-formal education a year, at an hourly rate that was equivalent to a secondary school hourly rate per pupil. That came to £300 million at the time, which was broadly similar to the 2% figure that was seen in 1940-something to be the proportion of formal education budgets that should be allocated to informal education or youth work activity. The paper was trying to return to that 2% marker.

  Q213 Damian Hinds: Could you do a pupil premium version of that?

  Dr Williamson: Yes, indeed. I think that one of the huge challenges is having the right professionals. I argued with the former Administration that they needed advanced skilled practitioners in youth services to reach the more challenging young people with clusterings of disadvantage. Unfortunately, there are two big problems that I hope you will pay some attention to. One is that far too many rookie and rather naive youth work practitioners are put to work combating teenage pregnancy and they're going to be eaten alive, largely, by some of these wily and worldly wise young people. The other is that far too much energy and resources are spent on competing with each other to provide the same kinds of services in the same locality. That was not the case 15 years ago; there were big gaps, but then, suddenly, under a former Prime Minister's social inclusion agenda, lots of youth organisations turned their face to, "We are going to be the ones to re-engage the young people who are NEET". Suddenly, you found five organisations trying to do exactly the same thing in the same locality with the same kids.

  Chair: I am going to have to move on, though this is fascinating.

  Q214 Neil Carmichael: Tony, I've been looking at the performance of Ofsted in measuring youth services. Your report of 2005-08 notes that only 2% of provision is judged by you to be "excellent" or "outstanding". Why do you think that is? It is not a high figure.

  Tony Gallagher: That's a good question. I add one caveat, which is that life has changed a lot between 2008 and now. I would like to get to that, if I can. You are right that the bulk of services then were judged to be "satisfactory" or "good"; there were few that managed to hit that high-flying "outstanding" figure. I mentioned the reasons for that before: it is very striking how inconsistent local authorities are—remember that a local authority owns the youth service—in, for example, things like deploying staff. Why is it that you can find a strikingly good piece of youth work and go around the corner and find something that is very poor? That is one reason—there are inconsistencies.

  There are other reasons as well. There is a fair amount of intervention by elected members locally. Elected members like to have provision in their particular wards, so you get some skew-whiffing, if you like, of provision. My biggest issue is that there is an awful lot expected of youth services. What happens is that the butter is spread very thinly. We see many small projects. It might be better to see fewer, more effective and bigger projects with better outcomes. Those are the sorts of issues that contributed to the fact that very few services hit the "outstanding" button. It is fair to say that there was improvement; we saw improvement from 2005 to 2008. By the way, those issues still remain.

  Chair: One more question.

  Q215 Neil Carmichael: Then I must skip forward and move straight on to the comparison between England and Scotland and ask whether Ofsted should be looking at all services. What do you think of that idea?

  Tony Gallagher: Ofsted's involvement with the sector has been very profitable over the years, I have to say. At the moment, we do not inspect youth services; we undertake children's services assessments and do the surveys I spoke about, so it is not in my remit to give you a straight answer in terms of policy, but if there were to be a discussion about, let's call it inspection, I think it has to move on. We have to look at things like self-assessment. The days of a blanket inspection programme will, I'm sure, have gone.

  Also, in the notion of the youth sector, there tends to be a split between the voluntary sector and the statutory. Let us think about provision for youngsters in the locality; let us package it in that way. Let's involve young people in that sort of process, and some peers. I would argue that there is room for inspection—I would, wouldn't I? It's not for me to say at the moment, but it will have to be revisited. Certainly, in Scotland, as you rightly say, the voluntary sector is part of that. After all, that's part of the youth service family. That is the way I would argue we should be portraying this, not one or t'other. So there are five or six issues that I suggest would contribute well to an inspection accountability improvement framework, Neil.

  Dr Wood: I have a brief point. Peer self-assessment and young people's assessment are also good approaches. All that needs to take place in the debate that we are now having about whether we need a national institute or a national body for youth work that enables us to explore such issues.

  Neil Carmichael: That's a good suggestion, thank you.

  Q216 Ian Mearns: Is it possible to compare services across the country when there is significant disparity in funding, the type of provision and the type of providers in different parts of the country? Is there a definitive model that we should adopt to evaluate youth service standards?

  Chair: That's a simple one.

  Tony Gallagher: We have an existing framework that could be revisited. The question for me would have to be what are the characteristics of a good youth service or good youth work? Doing a like-for-like comparison—this is in my notes—is very difficult for the reasons that you have said. There may be a different emphasis locally—it might be a rural area, rather than a conurbation—so such simple comparisons are difficult.

  We can band work, and we can look at authorities by size and such like. There is some mileage in doing that, and it will tell you something. But we have to ensure that we add a notion of looking at the practice and coming up with a professional view about how good it is and how well youngsters are engaged. So, yes, there is room for that, but it is limited in terms of making a like-for-like comparison.

  Q217 Ian Mearns: The bottom line is, is it worth the bother?

  Tony Gallagher: I think it is. There's work to do—benchmarking is important. It is important that one authority has a feel for what is happening next door: are we doing better, and how are we getting on? So there is room for that, but don't make an industry out of it. That is the problem.

  Q218 Chair: How do we get that visibility? I put down a series of questions to the Department about mapping. How can people hold their local councillors to account if they have no idea what the services in their area look like compared with next door? As you said, there might by fantastic services next door but those people have nothing and don't even know about it. If you can't see it, how do you challenge it?

  Janet Batsleer: Maps were made. Maps have consistently been made under each Administration. I suppose one of the issues for the Department is the connectivity. Who holds the story in the Department about the maps that exist when the Administration change? We can certainly point you to historic mappings of provision that were made under the previous Administration.

  Q219 Chair: We've already gone over time and it has been a fascinating session. We have representatives of the local authorities in with us next, so, very quickly, what should we be challenging the local authorities on?

  Dr Williamson: I'm hot on soundbites, and I have not met a young person yet who has asked me, "Which funding stream pays for this?" There can be different arrangements for delivery, and, clearly, that's something that is exercising your attention at the moment in commissioning and so on.

  I think it's really back to the previous question. We need to equalise the playing field for young people. A young person in X place has access to four or five different kinds of youth service opportunities, but a young person not that far away has a very limited repertoire of choice. That is a huge challenge for our society and for delivery. The second point is about rationalising the kind of crowded territory to which I referred a little earlier. In straitened times we have to think about a basic offer for young people and then look at the best mechanisms for delivering it.

  Tony Gallagher: Don't let it go. There's a worry that currently some local authorities, because of the situation in which they find themselves, are letting it slip through their fingers. How ever youth work is delivered—that is a debate—don't let it go.

  Chair: One of the reasons for having this inquiry is that it is a key opportunity to make the case.

  Janet Batsleer: I would ask them how they are securing open-access youth work provision for the young people in their locality and how they are evidencing that they are doing that.

  Dr Wood: I'd ask all that, then I'd invite them to describe the relationship between the local authority, youth work provision and the local HEI—the higher education provider—and how they are embedding that learning, training and evaluation data into their practice.

  Chair: Thank you all very much indeed for coming to give evidence to us today.



 
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