Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 344-377)

Paul Oginsky

30 March 2011

  Q344 Chair: Good morning, Mr Oginsky. After our packed panels, you are sitting alone. Welcome. You have been advising David Cameron on youth policy for more than four years and yet here we are in late March 2011 and the Government still have not articulated a youth policy. Why not?

  Paul Oginsky: Last week there was a youth summit which Tim Loughton led on, and brought together people from all the different Departments. It very much called for young people and people from the voluntary and private sector to say, "Look, we want to know what you think works in terms of working with young people." We have designed a flagship programme called national citizen service. A lot of time and effort has gone into that over the past four years. I stress that it is the flagship programme; it is not the whole fleet. We need organisations doing the great work that they do before national citizen service because that is aimed at 16 year-olds.

  Q345 Chair: There was a summit last week and we are into 2011. Why have the Government not come forward with a youth policy before now?

  Paul Oginsky: In part, they want to hear what this inquiry says. But they also want to take their time and get it right. They will be making a long-term policy announcement soon. They do not want to rush because they have not set a time scale.

  Chair: You certainly can't be accused of that.

  Paul Oginsky: Thank you. It will probably be around summertime when they will announce a more thorough and cross-departmental youth policy.

  Q346 Neil Carmichael: Hello. What is the remit of your role in terms of advising Government? Is it just focused on national citizen service?

  Paul Oginsky: My title is the Government adviser on National Citizen Service. However, that is a flagship policy, so other youth services are meant to be able to link to that to give a message to the rest of the youth sector as to what the Government see as important. Therefore, for four or five years, I have been going around asking people what they think is important and how they think National Citizen Service should be shaped. That includes young people themselves.

  Q347 Neil Carmichael: Could you describe to us what you think the big society is in the context of youth services?

  Paul Oginsky: This is a key question. First, I don't think the big society is a new thing. When you go around and talk about the big society, some people get quite annoyed because they've been doing it for years. Everyone who I meet in Government accepts that. It is not new; it is just a way of signalling what the Government think is important. It is about people taking responsibility for their communities and for their lives. That has been happening for years. The Government want to clear away things such as red tape, and they want to encourage people to get involved in their community, take responsibility and get involved in civic action.

  In terms of youth policy, we should think of a spectrum. At one end, young people are doing that and are engaging in society. They are able to do that, build relationships, make decisions and feel responsible, perhaps through working with adults on a level. That's big society's dream. At the other end, there are young who are unable to do that and are not engaged with society—perhaps they are being antisocial or they are just apathetic. We are trying to move young people towards the other end of the spectrum

  Q348 Neil Carmichael: Where does National Citizen Service fit in with that concept?

  Paul Oginsky: National Citizen Service is a personal and social development programme.

  Q349 Chair: If I could cut you off there, we will come to further explanation of that in a moment. Neil, can you ask something else?

  Q350 Neil Carmichael: I'm sorry. I will ask a question that I presume somebody isn't going to ask. What is your definition of personal and social development?

  Paul Oginsky: I've watched all your inquiries on the internet. It is interesting that still in 2011—I've been in this game for over 25 years—people find it hard to answer a question such as, "What is youth work?" That spectrum view is useful. Young people who are able to make decisions in relationships and build them in a healthy way, are kind of on that path. But for young people who are not able to do that, we need to be more interventional. I define personal and social development as a process by which we learn from our experiences and become more effective in our decisions and our relationships. So decisions is personal, and social is relationships.

  Q351 Neil Carmichael: Right. Where does the National Citizen Service fit in that context?

  Paul Oginsky: It's a personal and social development programme. The ambition is that at 16 every single young person will have the opportunity to take part in a personal and social development programme. In that way it is universal, but it also has to be targeted because some young people will not volunteer for it because it is a voluntary programme. That is why we need to be interventionist with some young people and encourage them to volunteer.

  Q352 Neil Carmichael: How does that differ in terms of existing youth sector activities?

  Paul Oginsky: I don't think it differs. What it offers is a framework which all youth organisations can play a part in, either preparing young people for the National Citizen Service or picking them up afterwards, or contributing to the National Citizen Service itself. It is only a framework that we got from the sector. We went around and asked everyone, "What do you think works?" They said social mix, getting young people involved in their community, residential work, supporting the transition to adulthood. That is what we've built, and now they can feed into it.

  Interestingly, the two criticisms I've heard when I go around are, "Why are you always trying to do something new?", and, "This is nothing new." It's not new. What is new is the framework, which allows everyone to contribute.

  Q353 Craig Whittaker: Good morning, Paul. You mentioned several times that this is the flagship. In fact, I think you said that it is the flagship, not the whole fleet. As of 16 February this year, only 1,000 young people from a potential 600,000 had signed up to the service. What conclusions do you draw from that?

  Paul Oginsky: Actually, this year, 2011, is the first pilot year of the National Citizen Service, and there are places for 11,000 young people initially. We anticipate that it will be full and perhaps even over-subscribed. We have 12 youth organisations leading on the pilots, and they are just now opening their doors. I think that only now as we speak are young people becoming more and more aware of NCS. The important thing is to get the social mix right. It is not good enough just to fill the places. We have to get the social mix, and that means hard work, often by targeting people and encouraging those who would not put their name down to put their name down.

  Q354 Craig Whittaker: You think that many of the 8,000 who showed an interest will sign up, along with the 1,000 who have already done so. Is that what you're saying?

  Paul Oginsky: The 1,000 you are referring to were involved in some forerunner stuff before the election, which some charities did based on the model. That was really useful to us, and we learned from it and fed it back to young people to see what they thought. This is the first year that we are doing some NCS work properly.

  Q355 Craig Whittaker: We saw Doug Nicholls earlier; he argued that as £300 million starts to disappear from the 365 days a year youth service, suddenly £370 million emerges to fund these summer projects. Will this scheme replace other youth services?

  Paul Oginsky: So far, the Government have allocated only £15 million. This is a pilot year, and it needs to work in order for us to be able to secure any other money. The money has been secured by the Cabinet Office from the Treasury, so it is additional money. It is not money that has been saved from other services. In that way, I really want to stress that this is money going to the youth sector, to do the kind of work that they told us they want to do. Hopefully, if it works—it will be thoroughly evaluated—we can convince the Government to put a lot more money into it. It is money going to a common reference point that everyone can share, but hopefully it will not take away from the current funding.

  Having listened to the other speakers, I would like to take a moment to say that cuts do not always mean savings. I would like to stress that to councils as well. Often, some of the cuts that they make to youth services will cost them money in the long run.

  Q356 Chair: Could you clarify exactly what money the Government have promised the National Citizen Service? We have figures of hundreds of millions.

  Paul Oginsky: The only money that they have announced so far is £15 million, which is for 2011. The 2012 allocation has not been announced, although they are intending to have 2012 as a second pilot year. They have not announced it yet because they are testing the model, and saying to people, "Okay, what would this cost? If you are going to run this programme as designed, how much would it cost?" What we are finding is that people come back with quite varied amounts of what it will cost.

  Q357 Chair: I thought they had announced in the spending review £37 million for 2012.

  Paul Oginsky: I thought that the Minister was going to announce that, and I didn't want to steal his thunder.

  Q358 Craig Whittaker: Is young people's development best served by a short one-off programme, or do you think it is better with an ongoing offer of support? Do you really think that young people at 16 are going to give up their summer holidays, just after finishing their exams?

  Paul Oginsky: There are two questions. We need to inspire young people to be part of their community ongoing, so I do not see NCS as a programme and then it stops. It's about helping them to think about society, and helping them to think about their contribution to society ad infinitum. It also means that they can come back on the programme and help our staff and so on in future years.

  Eventually, as NCS grows, it will become part of the culture of Britain—something that everyone will have done. In 10 or 15 years' time people will be turning round to each other and saying, "Where did you do your national citizen service?" One of the great things about it is that it's not a targeted programme, so it does not stigmatise young people; it is for all young people, and therefore it's for all us adults to encourage young people to come on it. This year, 2011, will be the hardest year to recruit because we do not have 10,000 young people who've done it and who can help us to recruit and get young people on it. We know that young people are the best recruiters for these things.

  Do I think that young people will put their names down for it? Absolutely. We said to young people, "Why would you put your name down for it, because it's voluntary?" The key thing that they said was, "If the staff are good, we'll be there." That's our key challenge, getting the right staff.

  Q359 Pat Glass: Can I talk to you about the financing of the National Citizen Service? We have been given a number of figures; we've heard that it's £15 million this year and £37 million next year. We've been given a figure of £370 million, and possibly, if 600,000 children choose to be involved, it may be £740 million.

  You said that you do not want to see this is as a replacement for what is happening in youth services now, but the fact is that this one-off will cost more than the annual youth service budget collectively across the country. Is that justified, at a time when we're seeing youth services disappearing? This morning, we heard of 65% or 70% cuts in Gloucestershire's youth services. NCS is six weeks for middle-class children whose parents can afford to have holidays anyway. Is this really justified, and a good use of money?

  Paul Oginsky: These are important points. I stress that if we take NCS at this point and say, "Let's not do it. Let's put it in the bin," we will still face all the cuts that we're getting at the moment. However, this is an opportunity to show Government, because it will be so thoroughly evaluated and it is very high profile, what personal social development programmes can do. By helping the social mix, we'll get a more cohesive society and help young people to be involved in society. We heard from the previous panel about £1 getting a £10 return; this is our opportunity, I think, for the people who believe in this kind of work to demonstrate what it can do. If we can do that, it isn't going to be taking money; it's going to be bringing in money. We can demonstrate the value of this work.

  Q360 Pat Glass: Is this not already happening in things like the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme? My grand-daughter goes off to pack week with the Brownies. Is this not already happening for many children? We are losing money from targeted services that are desperate for support.

  Paul Oginsky: I stress again that we are not taking money to do this; we are bringing money to the sector. It's not the Government who are going to be running this; it will be people out there—the ones that you've mentioned. We went out there and asked people what works, and we worked closely with people like the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme. They work with 13 to 25-year-olds. This is a common reference at 16 for everybody. They said that they're helping people to get on the programme, and also picking people to do the Duke of Edinburgh's scheme after the programme.

  If we can get it right, and I believe that this is our golden opportunity, it is a chance to show the whole country what this kind of work can achieve. It is a flagship in that way, but it's not the whole fleet. The Duke of Edinburgh's scheme has been a real support in development, and so has the Prince's Trust and Fairbridge and the rest.

  Q361 Pat Glass: If I can come back to the financing, finally. We are in very difficult times. Although you say that NCS is not taking money from other sectors, the fact is that it is public money, and there is only one pot of money. If it is going to the NCS, it is coming from other areas. You said that it is not new money. Is it coming from the early intervention grant?

  Paul Oginsky: No, it's going to be new money. The money at the moment is being run by the Cabinet Office from the Treasury and is invested in the sector. In future, the funding will come to the Education Department, but only if we can show the value of it. That is why it is getting so thoroughly examined in order to prove it. I really think that this is an opportunity.

  One of the key things—I know what you say about the Duke of Edinburgh's—is that the programme is not owned by anyone. I am not Conservative or of any political leaning, but the Government have asked us what works in this area. Many people you have spoken to over the weeks have contributed. We have said, "This is what works", and the Government said, "Okay. We'll invest in that." I don't feel that it is owned by this Government, or any Government, or by the sector or young people; it is a community opportunity. In this country we don't do good transition to adulthood; we aren't very good at getting young people involved in the community or social mixing. If we can crack that and help young people to make better decisions and build better relationships, that would benefit every department. Which department wouldn't benefit from people making better decisions and building better relationships? That will save us so much money that it will well outweigh the costs of the scheme. In its report, the Prince's Trust showed £10 billion as the cost of exclusion, and this week, Catch22 showed a £3.8 billion cost from young people not being involved in enterprise.

  Q362 Pat Glass: If as a result of this, we get a National Citizen Service, but youth services across the country disappear, will that be justified?

  Paul Oginsky: Youth services being cut across the country is heartbreaking, but I think it is indicative of the fact that people have not understood their value. I think this, as a flagship, will help explain to them the value.

  Pat Glass: I hope so.

  Paul Oginsky: I hope so too.

  Q363 Chair: Will there be any cost to those participating?

  Paul Oginsky: We have left that open to the providers. Some of them thought that there must be a cost so that young people show some commitment, and other providers thought that any cost would be exclusive. It is a pilot. Let's see how it goes. Some providers are making a nominal charge of £25, others are saying nothing, and some maybe a little more.

  Chair: How much is a little bit more?

  Paul Oginsky: One hundred pounds. I'd like to see how that goes. I have my own opinion on whether we should be charging for this now. I think young people make a commitment by signing up to a scheme that is meant to be challenging. If any of us were to go away on a six-week course, where you mix with people you wouldn't normally mix with and take challenges you wouldn't normally take, that would be a commitment enough, really.

  I understand that as part of the Government's philosophy, they do not want to fund this ad infinitum, indefinitely—coming back to your point. They have said, "Let's see everyone in society contribute." It is the idea of the big society. A lot of philanthropists are able to contribute to NCS. Organisations such as the ones you have interviewed today have said that they will offer support with staff through their CSR programme and have offered their buildings. It is an opportunity for us all to galvanise around our young people.

  Q364 Tessa Munt: The moment you stick a £25 price tag on it, or £100, you are up in the realms of the middle classes. My personal opinion is that that is completely exclusive. You were talking about cracking the social mix. How are you going to crack it and stop the programme being flooded by the middle classes?

  Paul Oginsky: As I said, it's a framework, and we're trying to build a relationship with the people providing the service so that it's based on trust. I know a lot of the organisations that are providing it this year, and they have been doing this kind of work for years. They are not out to run off with the Government's money.

  Q365 Tessa Munt: There is no such thing as the Government's money; it is taxpayers' money all the time. I am exercised by the same thing as Pat, and probably other people round the table. You strip out one part and whack it into this pot, but I'm not sure how your framework will pull into this process young people who don't have the opportunities that the middle class has.

  Paul Oginsky: You are right to say that it is taxpayers' money, and these people aren't looking to run off with it. But we do not want to say, "You've got to have two people of this kind and three people of that kind." We are saying that we want a social mix.

  Q366 Tessa Munt: How will you get it?

  Paul Oginsky: The charities on the ground that are delivering this are confident that they can do it, and we'll find out this year. Craig was talking about the forerunners to this. The forerunners were the Young Adult Trust and the Challenge network. They found that the difficulty wasn't getting young people from tough housing areas and people who were disengaged. Actually, there was a disproportionate number of people on last year's course who were young black women from housing estates. We have to make sure it's everyone and that it's a proper social mix. I think we'll all be surprised about who comes forward and who says they will do it. But, for me, that will happen because it has street cred. Some young people have to turn round to each other and say, "That's brilliant. You want to get on it." Then we won't be able to stop them.

  Q367 Craig Whittaker: Four years go, before I became an MP, I attended the launch of the service up in Preston with David Cameron. Am I right in saying that the initial plan was for the Government—if the Conservatives became the Government, and now they have—to pay a fee to a charity of the child's choice once they had finished? Has that now gone out of the window?

  Paul Oginsky: I think it has moved on. What we're looking to do now is set up alumni. Once young people come out of the programme, they are alumni, so they can stay connected with each other—perhaps through the internet, Facebook and that kind of stuff—and be presented with opportunities. When we asked employers what they were looking for in young people, a lot of them said that, first and foremost, they were looking for young people with interpersonal skills. There is an opportunity for young people and employers. There are also opportunities such as the International Citizens Service, where young people can go abroad. We might be able to develop things so that people can go on and get a bursary towards something else. That might depend on philanthropy.

  Q368 Craig Whittaker: I think the initial plan was that once a young person had finished the service to the community, the Government would make a donation to a charity on their behalf. That was my understanding of the initial plan four years ago. Are you now saying that's changed? That would have been a good way of bringing in people from all different backgrounds.

  Paul Oginsky: But I don't think people from all different backgrounds would need that really. It might be more targeted at young people who particularly needed it once they were motivated and up and running. Something we've got to avoid is what I refer to as the astronaut syndrome, where young people go on this amazing course through the summer for six weeks, but then they're just back in their home area. We have to make sure that the alumni scheme really works. It will be the alumni and the opportunities that are presented that help to get young people on the programme.

  Q369 Tessa Munt: We'll have to stop using the word "alumni", because that's exclusive in itself, and it's not going to be understood by most young people. If you say alumni, they won't have a clue. To go back to an earlier point, you've got 1,000 people signed up already, haven't you?

  Paul Oginsky: This year?

  Tessa Munt: Yes.

  Paul Oginsky: Not yet. We're looking to get 11,000 people on the programme this year.

  Q370 Tessa Munt: How are you going to measure their class?

  Paul Oginsky: Measure their class?

  Tessa Munt: Yes. You're telling me that it's not going to be just the middle class. How will you know? How will that happen?

  Paul Oginsky: In the same way as you could say we're going to measure their ethnicity or religion. We've brought in an evaluation organisation, which will tell us whether we are achieving what we say we have achieved. With the help of philanthropy, we are paying to get that evaluation right. It's going to be long term, over two years, to see how young people are coping, whether they were the right social mix and whether the scheme helped them with transition to adulthood. The Government are serious about evaluating this before they put in any more money.

  Q371 Tessa Munt: The other thing you said was that if it has the right staff, it's really cool and they'll just come flocking in. What skills will you be asking for and looking for in those staff?

  Paul Oginsky: I have spoken about personal and social development. One of the key things that we are looking for are people who can help young people with guided reflection. It is not enough to run an activity, whatever that activity is, and ask, "Did you enjoy it? Go back to your dorms." It needs staff with the ability to do personal and social development. It is a skill set.

  Q372 Tessa Munt: How do we measure that?

  Paul Oginsky: It is about inquiring into what young people got out of it. Where did the fight break out? How did they resolve the issues? How will they use the skills in future? Picking up on earlier discussions, that is a particular skill set and it is more interventional. You are making a key point; that is what we need to develop as we go on with the National Citizen Service.

  Q373 Tessa Munt: It is a bit late though, isn't it? This is happening now. I am asking what skills you will look for in your staff base.

  Paul Oginsky: In the tender document we laid out what skills we were looking for.

  Q374 Tessa Munt: What are they?

  Paul Oginsky: Guided reflection, the ability to communicate with young people and run experiential activities and so on. There were more than 250 applications to run this year. We ended up with 12 organisations. They have demonstrated to us that they have the staff to do that. Next week, we are getting them together to share best practice. This is a flagship programme, and we are hoping to use it to bring more organisations in to swap best practice again.

  Q375 Tessa Munt: My last question is on the away from home experience that these young people will have. How will that be maintained once they come back to a world that, in my area, has 70% of the youth service stripped out?

  Paul Oginsky: Once they come back, we ask them to explore what their community is. The first two weeks are residential. The first is away from home, while the second is within their home area. They are exploring what community means to them. The word "community" rolls off the tongue, but what does it actually mean to people, and do they feel like they belong to a community? After that, they come up with a project that they want to run themselves. We give them a small grant, and they run a project that makes a social impact.

  Q376 Tessa Munt: I want to stop you there. I am sorry about this; I ask this in every single Committee. How does that work in a rural setting?

  Paul Oginsky: This is one of the things that we are trying. We have got people working in the rural setting, and it might be that we have to adapt the programme a little for that. That is something we have to find out. When we say "social mix", it is great to have people from different ethnic backgrounds and different social classes, but it would be fantastic if people from different parts of the country could mix, such as those from rural and urban areas. We are not looking at the finished model; we are looking at how we can get this to work. Some of the providers are coming up with really innovative ways of doing things, such as, during the first week, someone running it in a rural setting sharing a residential centre with people from Newcastle or Liverpool. When those attending go back, they can stay in touch with each other, but they would be more exploring what their community is and what community means to them.

  Q377 Chair: What about the transport costs for that?

  Paul Oginsky: Transport is one of the costs. At the moment it is being secured through the providers. That can be a really good way of showing everyone galvanising behind the programme, by organisations supporting the transport. It does not have to be a cash donation. It can be gifts in kind towards the programme.

  Chair: Thank you. It is worth saying, at the end of this session, that anyone watching on the internet, as you have done, Paul, is able to contribute to an online forum that we have set up in conjunction with I hope that anyone listening or reading this will go to that site and post their views. Thank you all very much for giving evidence to us this morning.

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