Services for young people - Education Contents

5  The youth services workforce

Size and composition

92.  The youth workforce is as diverse as the range of services it supplies, encompassing a range of paid professionals and volunteers, including young people themselves. Recent analysis of the workforce by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) found that it stood at over 6.2 million in England in April 2010, comprising 912,000 paid staff and the other 5.3 million volunteers.[187] The largest paid workforces were sport and recreation (363,000), children's health (153,000), play work (110,000), creative and cultural industries (93,000) and youth work (85,000). It should be noted that the 'youth work' category included youth workers, youth support workers, and information, advice and guidance workers. The greatest concentrations of volunteers were in sport and recreation (3.4 million), the outdoors (1.15 million) and the youth voluntary sector (0.53 million). However, the CWDC noted that data collection and reporting is inconsistent, with different agencies often using incompatible data sets, including some time-series data and some one-off data collection; and it warned of gaps and double counting.[188] Since the term 'youth worker' is not a protected title and there is no requirement to register or obtain a licence to practice, there are no reliable national figures for the numbers of qualified youth workers (either full time equivalent or part time).

93.  Recruitment and retention difficulties reported for youth and community workers employed by local authorities fell between 2001 and 2009: in 2001 some 47% of local authorities had difficulties recruiting nationally qualified workers, whereas 10% reported having difficulties recruiting in 2009. Over the same period the proportion of authorities reporting retention difficulties for youth and community workers fell from 20% of authorities in 2001 to 3% in 2009. In terms of other youth services staff, the vacancy data in 2010 showed a slight rise in overall vacancy rate in youth justice (from 3.7% to 4.1%), and a marked increase in notified vacancies for sports and leisure attendants in 2009-10.[189]

94.  David Wright, Chief Executive of the Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services (CHYPS), told the Committee that its survey of local authorities at the start of 2011 had found planned cuts of 10% in the workforce in the coming year.[190] This equated to around 3,000 local authority youth workers.[191] Doug Nicholls painted an even bleaker picture of multiple redundancies, especially of youth workers: "by July (2011) nearly half of the professional youth work force could disappear as a result of redundancies".[192]

Skills, qualifications and training

95.  Requirements for initial qualification and professional status as a youth worker have increased over recent years. There are now two qualification levels for youth work: the lower 'Youth and Community Support Worker' range and the 'Professional Youth Worker' range. To qualify as a Youth and Community Support Worker, individuals need to hold a Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice. From September 2010 the minimum entry requirement for the Professional Youth Worker range became a BA degree from a university or college of higher education validated by the National Youth Agency,[193] or the alternative postgraduate qualifications. Such awards are currently offered by around 40 English universities and colleges, under a range of titles including 'youth and community', 'community and youth studies', childhood and youth studies', and 'informal and community education'.[194] A move towards a more qualified youth workforce is mirrored elsewhere in Europe: in Germany we found that the most common qualification for youth workers was a Bachelor degree, whereas it had previously been a diploma.[195] In terms of pay, the current (2009) professional youth worker range minimum starting point is £20,591 as compared with a median starting salary for new graduates of £27,000, and an average public sector starting salary of £24,100 in the same year.[196] The current (2009) Youth and Community Support Worker range starts at £14,143.[197] These pay levels and qualifications apply to youth workers employed across all settings, not only those employed by local authorities.

96.  It is hard to generalise about qualifications, skills and pay levels of non-youth work professionals in the youth workforce, since they are made up of a wide range of practitioners with different qualifications and training. In addition, most voluntary sector organisations have their own internal training and accreditation systems for volunteers. The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services and the Children's Workforce Development Council recently jointly launched the Progress project to provide 25,000 training places to workers in the voluntary and community sector, provide bursaries to 30 voluntary sector organisations to help them become accredited training providers, and support 360 individual trainers.

97.  The Department for Education told us that it did not intend to take a view on workforce qualifications, development or regulation, stating that "the Government believes that the development and recruitment of both professionals and volunteers is best addressed by professionals themselves and their employers".[198] Amongst witnesses we found varied views about what the appropriate mix of staff in the workforce should be. Many written submissions focused on the particular value of professional youth workers. For instance, TAG, the Professional Association of the Lecturers in Youth and Community Work, argued that :

Central to an effective infrastructure of high quality services are youth workers, who are educated and formed to initiate, develop and support informal educative work with young people. These workers also leverage the commitment and skills of a range of part-time and volunteer workers.[199]

Linda Jack, Youth Policy Adviser at the Consumer Financial Education Body and previously a youth worker, identified a view "that anyone can do youth work and thus diminish the role of the professional youth worker ... Of course there will always be a role for support and voluntary youth workers, but if youth work is to be truly effective it needs excellent leadership and a highly qualified workforce".[200] Gill Millar, Regional Youth Work Adviser at Learning South West, told us that qualifications were "a mark of having undertaken the training" which offered "the chance to develop the skills to be able to respond in particular ways and at particular times".[201] Doug Nicholls told us that:

the additionality that full time [youth workers] bring is to coordinate and bring the best thinking about informal education practice to bear on the voluntary staff that they work with ... They have a commitment to relationship-building with young people that is not a product of character. It is a product of sophisticated learning about group work, child psychology and education theory, which is developed within the training courses.[202]

98.  In contrast, Changemakers, a charity which aims to develop young people's leadership skills, argued against further 'professionalisation' of the workforce, particularly of youth work, and in favour of increasing numbers of volunteers: "the real workforce development need in the sector is to encourage more adult volunteers to get involved in delivering activities for young people".[203] Its Chief Executive, Adam Nichols, argued that "there is a danger that we see qualifications as being a prerequisite, when actually the bulk of excellent youth workers I know don't have qualifications at all", although he conceded that "there are clearly specialisms in working with young people who have particular types of issues and challenges".[204] Derek Twine, Chief Executive of The Scout Association, pointed to the example of young people as proof of the potential for volunteers in the workforce, saying "Rebecca and Meg as volunteers are both offering something as powerful as someone who had been on a particular so-called professional course. It is the training and quality that matters, whether that is delivered by volunteers or a college, whether you have letters after your name or not".[205]

99.  Ginny Lunn, Director of Policy and Development at The Prince's Trust, sounded a note of caution about the scope for using volunteers, noting that they were not necessarily a 'cheap' option: "volunteers cost money. It costs us £380 per volunteer to ensure they are properly trained and supported. We need to get away from thinking that you can just bung volunteers in to deliver something".[206]

100.  In reality the dividing line between volunteers and professionals in the youth workforce is porous. It is common for individuals to join an organisation as a volunteer, often having previously been a service user (as in the case of several of our young witnesses), and subsequently train as a youth worker. A submission from Hollie Hutchings, a Youth and Community Worker, stated that "most youth workers (like myself) usually start their youth work career with volunteering and then with experience start to get paid work".[207] Other submissions gave similar examples.[208] Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive of UK Youth, told us that "the people who often become the best youth workers are the people who have been volunteers themselves".[209]

101.  Many of our witnesses agreed that a blend of professionals and volunteers was most desirable, led by youth workers but harnessing the enthusiasm of volunteers. The Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services (CHYPS) wrote that "for volunteers, it is the relationship they have with professional youth workers which ensures their success".[210] Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, noted that "successive Ofsted inspections have shown that best practice is where there are services strategically and professionally managed by professionally trained staff".[211] Jason Stacey, Head of Policy, Media and Research at YMCA England, also advocated "a mixture where you have the professionally trained youth worker with volunteers to support them", but warned that there were limits to the appropriate use of volunteers: "in terms of the work that the YMCA does with some of the most damaged young people and the support that is required of them, I'm afraid it is really a lot to ask for that to fall on a volunteer".[212] Ginny Lunn added that "volunteers are really valuable ... but we would never say that volunteers can take the place of the workforce; they can add".[213]

102.  Volunteers are highly valued and already much deployed across youth services and should continue to be encouraged. The experience of The Scout Association, amongst many others, shows the considerable potential for volunteers to be trained effectively and form a core part of the workforce. It is not, however, clear to what degree greater use of volunteers is possible, since they already comprise a sizeable proportion of the workforce—87% according to analysis by the Children's Workforce Development Council—and there are costs to their training and support. However, additional barriers to their participation should not be introduced, and in this context we welcome the Government's pledge to scale back the bureaucratic nature of Criminal Record Bureau checks.

103.  Requirements for initial qualification and professional status for youth workers have increased over recent years. It is not clear to what extent this has been prompted by a wish to regulate and professionalise youth work, and to what extent to ensure that workers have key skills. We heard evidence that trained and qualified youth workers brought skills and an understanding of informal educational processes which less trained staff might lack. We acknowledge that the requirement to have a degree in order to acquire professional youth worker status may have had positive effects in cementing youth work as a profession. However, we are not aware of any research that shows definitively that higher levels of qualifications in youth work lead to better outcomes for young people, and it was not clear to us why a degree should be the only route into qualified youth work status. We believe that it would be timely to review the knowledge and skills likely to be needed by youth workers over the next decade and the range of initial training and qualifications which would help to secure these.

Continuing professional development

104.  We heard that there was little in the way of continuing professional development for youth workers or other staff. Doug Nicholls told us that "CPD is in a woeful condition" and that, although the Joint Negotiating Committee terms and conditions for youth workers recommended that 5% of local authority youth service budgets be spent on CPD:

In the absence of a license to practice as in most other professions there is no requirement to undertake in-service training other than what good practice dictates ... most youth work professionals have not been receiving any form of Continuing Professional Development in their professional sphere for several years. CPD was the first victim of rationalisation. The last recorded figures are from the NYA [National Youth Agency] survey in 2008. You will notice that some local authorities provided no in-service training at all ... even if we take the figures as read, we see that it was a spend less than half of the JNC recommended level.[214]

According to the National Youth Agency audit in 2008, 47 out of 144 local authorities spend nothing at all on continuing professional development.

105.  The low priority afforded to continuing professional development of the youth workforce is concerning, in particular the fact that, according to the last audit conducted by the National Youth Agency in 2008, some 33% of local authorities spent nothing at all on it, despite accredited terms and conditions for youth workers recommending that it should account for a minimum of 5% of local authority youth service budgets. Investment in continuing professional development would be particularly worthwhile in enabling practitioners to share good practice and new ways of working between services. The Government must engage with the questions about qualifications, training and continuing professional development which we raise in this Report, and set out how it intends positively to support the sector in its developing its workforce.

Licence to practise

106.  Unlike, say, teaching or social work, 'youth work' is not a state-recognised occupation. As a consequence, some have argued, parents and communities cannot necessarily be confident that their young people are under the care of a 'fit and proper person', even if they have passed criminal records scrutiny. Doug Nicholls told us that "a number of people who have done terrible things have called themselves youth workers with absolutely no training qualification or relation to the field of youth work".[215] Some suggested that one solution could be the creation  of a 'licence to practise', under which each youth organisation defined what it regarded as appropriate skills for the work to be undertaken by its personnel, including volunteers, but with some settings (e.g. street-based  work) requiring a professional youth worker qualification. Doug Nicholls explained why a licence was required:

The term youth work is unprotected. This is irresponsible and dangerous. Anyone can call themselves a youth worker. Urgent attention must be given to a simple parliamentary proposal to protect the title of Youth Worker for those working full time in the field with the relevant JNC or CE VE endorsed qualification, and the title Youth Support Worker for all those with the relevant qualification. A licence to practise needs to be introduced to provide registration and the recording of experience and qualification appropriate to the different levels of operation of youth workers, volunteers, part-time support workers and full time professionals and advanced practitioners and officers.[216]

107.  However, Adam Nichols, Chief Executive of Changemakers, disagreed, saying "I don't see a benefit, particularly. You create artificial, unnecessary barriers to entry. You potentially create a false dichotomy between volunteers and paid staff. It could also be very expensive ... This idea that we are going to create some kind of protectionism, a bit like the safeguarding legislation, which basically takes as its assumption that everyone is a paedophile before they start, that if you are not licensed it is assumed you are not capable of working with children and young people, will mean that a lot of people who currently volunteer would simply say 'Sorry, I'm not going to do that'".[217]

108.  Others thought that a flexible model could be found that would apply different requirements to different staff. Gill Millar, Regional Youth Work Adviser at Learning South West advocated "a progressive licence to practise, perhaps similar to the Institute for Learning approach that has been taken with further education teaching, where there are recognised qualifications at different levels and a requirement to keep up continuous professional development alongside it in order to retain membership of an institute".[218] Jane Haywood, Chief Executive of the Children's Workforce Development Council, thought that a voluntary, not mandatory, licence would be useful.[219] Mr Nicholls acknowledged that one size would not fit all and there were different possible models for a licence, which could allow it to apply to "different levels of voluntary intervention, part-time workers and full-time practitioners".[220]

109.  The Minister, Tim Loughton MP, believed that there was "merit" in the idea of valuing youth work more and that a licence to practise was "an interesting idea" which he could see the principles behind. However, he thought that "in practice, it could have unforeseen consequences. I need to be very much more convinced on how it will improve the quality and quantity of provision, rather than discourage people from coming forward. Who would regulate it? Would there be a college?"[221]

110.  We did not hear sufficient evidence to convince us of the merits or otherwise of introducing a licence to practise for youth work, although we note that it does seem rather odd that other professionals working with children are subject to protection of title, when similar standards are not applied to the youth workforce. A recent proposal by youth organisations to establish an Institute for Youth Work which could set minimum standards across the sector and promote continuing professional development, is worth further consideration.

187   Children's Workforce Development Council (2010), A picture worth millions: state of the Young People's Workforce, p.9 Back

188   Ibid., p.6. The main gaps in data apply to the housing, schools and education, social care and substance misuse sectors, employment in the voluntary and private sectors and volunteers. Data gaps particularly apply to age, disability, retention data, specific qualifications, current training data and detailed pay and benefits data Back

189   Ibid., p.10 Back

190   Q 233 Back

191   True scale of council youth service cuts revealed, Children and Young People Now, 8 February 2011. Back

192   Q 271 Back

193   This change will not be applied retrospectively: all previously-gained professional youth work qualifications at Foundation Degree and Diploma of Higher Education level will continue to confer qualified youth worker status. Back

194   National Youth Agency, Workforce and Training, Getting Qualified:  Back

195   See Annex [Note of Berlin visit]  Back

196   High Fliers Research, The Graduate Market in 2010, p.19. Available at:  Back

197   The Joint Negotiating Committee for Youth and Community Workers (JNC) is the formal oversight body for youth work and has two main functions: first, to set the national framework used to grade and pay youth work jobs, agreeing salary scales and other terms and conditions; and second, to endorse youth and community workers' qualifications which have been professionally approved by the Education and Training Standards (ETS) Committee of the National Youth Agency. Organisations representing employers and organisations representing staff sit on the JNC. Local authorities, and many voluntary organisations, will usually employ only youth workers with JNC-accredited qualifications Back

198   Ev 112 Back

199   Ev w196 Back

200   Ev w343 Back

201   Q 280 Back

202   Q 281 Back

203   Ev 172 Back

204   Qq 279-280 Back

205   Q 126 Back

206   Q 168 Back

207   Ev w4 Back

208   For instance, the Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services: "[volunteering] is often a route into the profession that adults begin as volunteers and continue to develop and grow into paid employment as a support worker and then occasionally into a professional role" [Ev 148]. See also Charlotte Hill, Q 78 Back

209   Q 278 Back

210   Ev 148 Back

211   Q 81 Back

212   Q 126 Back

213   Q 168 Back

214   Ev 199 Back

215   Q 292 Back

216   Ev 200 Back

217   Q 290 Back

218   Q 295 Back

219   Q 290 Back

220   Q 292 Back

221   Q 486 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 23 June 2011