Services for young people - Education Contents

1  Introduction

Terminology: the 'Youth Service' and youth services

5.  Around 85% of young people's waking hours are spent outside formal education. [3] Yet each year local authorities spend 55 times more on formal education than they do on providing services for young people outside the school day.[4] There is a statutory duty on local authorities under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 to provide some such activities.[5] The duty states that, for young people aged 13 to 19 and young people aged 20 to 24 with learning disabilities:

A local education authority in England must, so far as reasonably practical, secure for qualifying young persons in the authority's area access to—

(a)  Sufficient educational leisure-time activities which are for the improvement of their well-being, and sufficient facilities for such activities; and

(b)  Sufficient recreational leisure-time activities which are for the improvement of their well-being, and sufficient facilities for such activities.

It stipulates that local authorities may either provide facilities for such activities, assist others in the provision of such activities, or make arrangements for facilitating access to such facilities.[6] In exercising their functions, local authorities must ascertain the views of young people about activities and facilities and the need for any additional such activities and facilities; and must also publicise information about positive leisure-time activities and facilities in the area, keeping that information up-to-date.[7]

6.  Local authorities have broadly provided two types of service: 'open-access' (or 'universal') services including a range of leisure, cultural, sporting and enrichment activities often based around youth centres; and more targeted provision for vulnerable young people, including teenage pregnancy advice, youth justice teams, drug and alcohol misuse services and homelessness support. Provision is overseen by local authority officers, but service delivery is often contracted out to local voluntary or community groups and, occasionally, private contractors. Somewhat confusingly, perhaps, this local authority provision is often referred to locally as 'the Youth Service' (e.g. 'Devon Youth Service').

7.  The beginning of an organised youth service in England is usually traced back to the start of the Second World War in 1939 and the issuing by the then Ministry of Education of a circular (1486) entitled In the Service of Youth. The circular called on local authorities to provide resources for a youth service which would promote young people's social and physical development. Greater resources were put into youth services in the wake of a major review of youth provision in the 1960s conducted by the Albemarle Committee. Concerns about teenage 'delinquency' and the end of National Service in the 1950s had led the Ministry of Education to appoint a committee, chaired by Countess Albemarle, to review youth services in England and Wales. Albemarle reported that voluntary attendance (by young people) and voluntary help (by adult volunteers) were their great strengths, in contrast to mandatory attendance at school. Weaknesses were the lack of strong relationships between the statutory and voluntary sector, and uncertainty about funding. As a result of the report, substantial additional funding was committed to youth services, the number of workers doubled in the following decade, and a Joint Negotiating Committee was established to set terms and conditions for youth workers at the national level.[8]

8.  In addition to local authority provision many voluntary, community or private organisations choose to provide services for young people. Some may seek contracts from local or national government, while others fund their provision from other sources. These services, too, encompass a range from open-access activities such as the Scouts and Girlguiding, to more targeted programmes such as those run by The Prince's Trust for disadvantaged young people, and from uniformed and faith-based groups to community and interest focused groups. The range of services and activities provided under the description of 'services for young people' is incredibly broad, so much so that even those in the sector struggled to define it: for instance, Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, said "it is almost difficult to describe us as a sector. We are so different—from the very local to the statutory service to the private deliverer".[9] Derek Twine, Chief Executive of The Scout Association added that "the whole of young provision is very diverse. Its strength is its biggest weakness".[10] A depiction of the relationship between youth work in its various settings and the wider range of services for young people is provided in the following diagram.[11]

9.  Our inquiry considered both those services provided as part of the local authority offer and those run by other groups. We took oral evidence from heads of local authority youth services, as well as from a range of non-statutory providers of open-access services, including the YMCA, the Scout Association and the Salmon Youth Centre in Bermondsey, and targeted services, including Fairbridge and The Prince's Trust.

Youth work

10.  Youth work is a "deliberative educational approach with its own pedagogy and professional base",[12] whose aim is to support the personal and social development of young people through non-formal education. The practice has its roots in the clubs and associations set up by voluntary—often faith-based—organisations in the 19th century, and youth work encompasses a range of activities with young people, primarily those aged 13-19, which promote their personal development and social education. A core principle of youth work is that young people involve themselves by choice. As the National Youth Agency describes: "its distinctive characteristics include the voluntary engagement of young people, young people's active involvement in developing provision, the use of informal education as the primary method of youth engagement, and an approach to provision that is responsive to young people's preferences".[13] Nick Wilkie, Chief Executive of London Youth, explained that youth work involved:

giving young people the opportunity to experience something new, the ability to take responsibility and to come together with a positive peer group to do that—all under the watchful and affirming guise of a supportive, sensible adult ... At some level, most of us, if we were asked to close our eyes and think about what it was in our adolescence that gives us confidence and resilience, and the skills that we are using this morning, would point to opportunities that broadly fulfil a definition of youth work.[14]

11.  Youth workers are trained in youth work practice and techniques to promote young people's personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole. Ginny Lunn, Director of Policy and Development for The Prince's Trust, told us that the role of youth workers was "to inspire young people, to give them the inspiration and the hope, which you hear all the time is lacking",[15] and Janet Batsleer, Head of Youth and Community Work Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University, 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".[16]

12.  Youth work takes place in a range of settings. In addition to working for local authority youth services, youth workers are employed by health authorities, youth justice teams, sports development programmes, drugs projects, social services, arts venues, schools and a range of voluntary organisations. Youth work is often building-based—for instance in community youth clubs—but can also be street-based, and such 'detached' youth work has increased in recent years.

Youth policy under the previous and current administrations

13.  Policy initiatives under the previous administration led to the restructuring of some authorities' youth services and a closer integration of 'universal' and 'targeted' provision. The Youth Matters Green Paper (2005) and subsequent Youth Matters: Next Steps White Paper introduced Integrated Youth Support Services (IYSS), covering both universal services such as youth centres, Connexions guidance and a range of personal development and social activities for all young people; and Targeted Youth Support (TYS), directed at those at risk of drug or alcohol misuse, crime, homelessness, teenage pregnancy and other high-risk individuals. Targeted Youth Support formed a discrete subset of Integrated Youth Support Services. The rationale given in the White Paper for this structural change was that agencies working with young people had fragmented and were duplicating one another's efforts, and that integrating their work around the needs of young people would allow improved opportunities for young people to develop social and emotional skills through informal learning and provide better early identification of vulnerable teenagers.[17] Aiming High for Young People: a ten year strategy for young people (2007) established a national policy framework, requiring a local authorities to provide an offer for 'positive activities' for all young people.

14.  The current Government has yet to articulate an overall youth policy, though it has made individual announcements about introducing National Citizen Service, a six-week programme of youth volunteering and residential activities for 16-year-olds being piloted in 2011 and 2012. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Tim Loughton MP, told us that he was "not going to hurry to come up with artificial timetables" for setting out policy,[18] but outlined his thinking on youth services:

Youth services in this country are one of the most high profile unreformed public services. Many other areas related to children and young people have undergone immense change—much of it for the better—over the past couple of decades. It strikes me that youth services have been left in a bit of a time warp.[19]

He told us that a youth action group had been established, consisting of ministers from eight different departments, with responsibility for "youth proofing" all their policies, and that youth democratic engagement was a priority for the Government.[20]

15.  The Department for Education held a policy summit entitled 'Positive for Youth' with a range of sector representatives in March 2011, and is currently consulting on the content of a youth strategy, due for publication later this year. The Minister explained that he did not want this to be "another glossy brochure that everyone puts on the shelf, but a living, breathing document. I shall not just produce it to show it to people".[21] More broadly, the Government has set out early intervention as a priority across the board, commissioning a review from Graham Allen MP, bringing together funds under the Early Intervention Grant, and calling for evidence-based targeted intervention. In terms of youth services, this is likely to mean a prioritisation of public funds for disadvantaged young people, and of targeted services over open-access ones.

3   Professor Tim Brighouse, Education without failure, The Royal Society of Arts Digital Journal, Autumn 2008 Back

4   See paragraph 53. Mean per pupil spending by local authorities in 2009-10 was £4,290. By comparison, mean spending per young person by local authorities on youth services in the same year was £77.28 Back

5   Part 1 Section 6 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (inserting new Clause 507B into the Education Act 1996). Available at: Back

6   Subsection (5) Back

7   Subsections (9) and (10) Back

8   Infed, The Albemarle report and the development of youth work in England and Wales. Available online at:  Back

9   Q 60 Back

10   Q 104 Back

11   Adapted from a diagram produced by Tom Wylie, Spending Wisely-young people, youth work and youth services: an introductory guide, National Youth Agency (2006) Back

12   Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, Q 2 Back

13   National Youth Agency and Local Government Association (2010), Valuing Youth Work, getting it right for young people, p.5 Back

14   Q 128 Back

15   Q 142 Back

16   Q 175  Back

17   Department for Education and Skills (2007), Targeted Youth Support: A Guide, Foreword p.1 Back

18   Q 410 Back

19   Q 410 Back

20   Q 411 Back

21   Q 411 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 23 June 2011