Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by 4Children


1.    This letter sets out 4Children's response to the call for evidence of the Education Select Committee inquiry into services for young people.

2.    4Children is the national charity all about children and families. We have spearheaded a joined-up, integrated approach to children's services and work strategically with a wide range of partners around the country to support children, young people and families in their communities. We run Sure Start Children's Centres as well as family and youth services across Britain. We develop, influence and shape national policy on all aspects of the lives of children, young people and families.

3.    The organization seeks to develop community based and community led support for young people with your people design at its heart. This approach runs through all our youth activities and should, we believe, be a core component of all Government supported schemes.

4.    Whilst our starting point for our services is universal, we are also keenly aware of the need for targeted, preventative support for those at risk. We believe that this is an underdeveloped area of both policy and practice and welcome the focus on early intervention in the Graham Allen review and by the Department for Education. We are currently developing a model of 'teenage turnaround' which includes building confidence and self esteem, communication and relationships skills, broadening horizons and supporting aspiration and education,

5.    We recognize that some young people need more support of this kind at key times of vulnerability including transition from primary to secondary school and the 14-16 period. However we are also clear that early intervention means just that. That's why we believe that joined up support throughout childhood is crucial - from the best start through Children's Centres throughout school age. It is also important to ensure support for families throughout this time and we believe that there is a particular shortage of parent support for parents of teenagers.

6.    4Children's 2007 inquiry into young people's lives and attitudes revealed the extent of young people's dissatisfaction with services and activities for young people. The Make Space Youth Review[68] was run by our Make Space youth campaign and supported by Nestle. It's consultation of 16,000 young people found that:

—  Less than 25% felt they had a significant say over services and activities aimed at them.

—  45% said they were confused about where to go for support.

—  79% said they would be more likely to access a 'one stop shop' for support services than if those services exist in different places.

7.    The campaign's aim is to transform opportunities for young people across the country via a network of contemporary out of school centres. We welcomed the development of the exemplar My:Place schemes as a first step in achieving this and are working with local communities to ensure they are centres of excellence. We work with young people and youth workers, schools, local authorities and national organisations.

8.    The campaign also runs a specific Make Space for Health programme which promotes healthier lifestyles for teenagers and provides free activity packs for youth workers to use to engage young people in a dialogue about food, physical activity and emotional well-being.

9.    We also run a new programme, Airplay, supported by the RAF Benevolent Fund launched in August 2010. The programme offers youth activities and support for young people on 28 RAF bases across Britain, from London to the Highlands to north Wales.

10.  We welcome the inquiry into the provision of services beyond the school/college day and the opportunity to respond to it.


11.  4Children believes this is a timely inquiry because youth activities and services are facing a series of challenges which mean that serious consideration of fundamental reform is necessary.

12.  These challenges include:

(a)  Real terms spending reductions during this CSR period alongside removal of ring-fencing in many areas of Local Authority spending.

(b)  Demographic changes, particularly an aging society which means that there will be growing demand for services for older people including social care, with the potential to "squeeze" other areas of spending.

(c)  A context in which many families have been hit hard by the recession and are facing further impacts from spending reductions including reductions in public sector jobs and potential reductions in public service provision. This is leading to a renewed debate about how best to support children and families through tough times.

(d)  Young people are facing particular challenges as a result of economic situation with youth unemployment high and growing competition for university places, apprenticeships and first jobs.

(e)  Unacceptable levels of young people's involvement in risky behavior, anti social behavior and crime.

(f)  A public debate about the role and affordability of universal services and the role of prevention.

13.  It is 4Children's contention that whilst early years services, and other parts of the public service infrastructure have begun to be re-shaped in the last decade, youth provision remains largely unchanged—the sector has not modernized significantly. Access to good, inspirational activities is limited and there is little preventative support for those that are at risk.

14.  Initiatives like MyPlace are highly significant and welcome but more innovation and creativity must be brought to bear on considering not only how such "state of the art" youth provision should be run but also how they can become a centres of excellence and good practice, of relevance to all youth work. This includes how to be sustainable, how to integrate with other local services and how it can have the biggest positive impact on young people's lives and behavior change. MyPlace in the London Borough of Enfield is a good example of this.

15.  4Children believes that there is much that the youth sector can learn from the journey that the early years sector has been on. This includes:

(a)  Importance of working across professional boundaries to give integrated help and support.

(b)  Making the most of the capital investment programme and bringing more services into Centres.

(c)  Recognizing the role of volunteers, peer mentors and the wider community.

(d)  Being clear about outcomes and what really makes the difference to communities and to narrowing the gap for individuals.

It is with this in mind that 4Children sets of the following principles for reform.



16.  There should continue to be a universal starting point for youth services, with targeted outreach of the most vulnerable groups. Services should be available to all, with a range of activities offered to cater to a range of interests and needs. All young people benefit from taking part in out of school activities and the rich social and personal skills they help foster. Evidence shows that along with the personal skills, school attainment is also improved.

17.  We know that vulnerability is not a "steady state" and that children can go through periods of uncertainty as a result of family breakdown, ill-health or redundancy during which time access to services and support can be vital. Universal services are able to provide this support before a child or family hits crisis point.

18.  Within a universal approach targeted outreach work should ensure that vulnerable groups are informed and enabled to take part in the activities offered. Those running and commissioning youth services must ensure they have a thorough understanding of the needs of their community so that services can be effectively targeted to meet those needs.

Putting young people in the driving seat

19.  Out of school services should seek to empower young people to take control of their own activities and their own futures. User designed and led Services should become the norm.

Enfield MyPlace

The London Borough of Enfield will soon discover whether it will receive myplace funding to realise its vision of renovating the Craig Park youth Centre into a state of the art youth facility. Those working on the bid believe that such a venue can have a ground breaking impact, literally help to save lives by breaking down barriers between young people in the Borough.

MyPlace has the involvement of young people at its heart. However, in Enfield the principle of youth engagement was taken to a whole new level. Young people led a community wide consultation which involved going out and about speaking to schools; community and cultural groups; disability organisations and local charities. The young people staged a "Dragon's Den" event at which architects pitching to re-design the centre were interviewed by young people.

If the bid is successful, plans to renovate the Craig Park youth centre include providing a media suite where young people can access desktop publishing and other software programmes; a recording studio and internet access; a fully sprung dance floor and a chill out café zone.

The team at Enfield hope to encourage local young people to lead healthier lifestyles through its cave climbing facility; gym; dance studio and multi activity centre. The centre is also planning to run sports coaching and healthy eating courses which are not available elsewhere in the community but which young people have expressed an interest in pursuing.

A number of young people involved in the Enfield bid have since been inspired to pursue a career in youth work with 15 young people having gone on to gain their level1 youth work qualification. The Borough is also now developing a youth leadership academy.

20.  This is particularly relevant in the present climate of cuts and reduced services. Local decisions will be improved if Young peoples' are consulted about funding and spending priorities. With the Government's Decentralisation and Localism Bill looking at community engagement and getting people involved with decision making effecting them, local councils should work with youth leaders as part of this. Young people should be involved with decisions about cuts and about which services to protect and how resources are best spent.

21.  One mechanism that has proved successful at getting young people involved in the democratic process is the Young Mayor Scheme. At present 12 Local Authorities have their own elected Young Mayor, with most having a budget and a clear representational role. This gives young people the sense that they can have a powerful voice and say over how decisions are made and encourage young people to participate in the political process. An independent report published in October 2010 backed up the benefits of Young Mayors saying "this scheme has enormous personal impacts upon the young people involved. Young Mayor's had clearly developed in confidence and their ability to communicate to young and older audiences." Also the report highlighted that "the scheme was hailed as a formal success by stakeholders in every borough that we looked at. This was based on trends of increased voting for the Young Mayor by young people in the borough year on year since the scheme started."[69]

An integrated approach

22.  Research for The Family Commission shows that too often families feel that they are forced to "jump through hoops or risk falling through gaps" when seeking to access services. This is because many children and family services are delivered in silos which do not reflect the reality of family life. Children's needs change during the different ages and stages of childhood but the transitions between services and the integration between them needs to be stronger.

23.  4Children's experience of delivering integrated services for children and young people across childhood, 0-19 years, shows that it is possible to bring services together for the good of children, young people and their families.

Case study: Carousel Children's Centre—a Centre providing support to families with children 0-19 years

4Children's Carousel Children's Centre is run in partnership with Essex County Council. Opened in May 2006 the flagship centre pioneered the 4Children approach to fully integrated service provision and facilities for children aged 0-19 and their families.

As well as providing a high quality "core offer", Carousel has taken the concept a step further, now providing over 40 different services.

As well as activities for younger children, including a static bus within the grounds to encourage free play for under five year olds, the centre also hosts a play strategy club for 11-14 year olds which runs daily after school.

The centre attracts many teenagers who take part in social, volunteering and vocational opportunities and runs an alternative education programme for children likely to be excluded from school in year 11 (aged16) alongside a complimentary education programme for children likely to be excluded in year nine (aged 14).

Carousel is used as a resource base for families who have fostered or adopted children to support parents and bring children who have been fostered or adopted together in a relaxed setting.


Carousel is located in an area of acute deprivation with issues around teenage parenting, worklessness and child poverty. A successful relationship has the local traveller population and recent Polish immigrants who have experienced basic problems around integration.

A full time Special Education Needs Officer works to ensure access to out of school provision for disabled children and their families at the centre. While Essex Police work in partnership with the centre to ensure that young people have access to youth support and provision at the centre.

Early Intervention and Outreach

Professional teams working to support early intervention work around schools, children & communities (TASCC) were created in September 2007 by Essex County Council. One of these teams is based at the Carousel Children's Centre and works in the community to intervene early to support families in difficulty. The Centre has Family Outreach Workers to work with vulnerable and hard to reach families at the earliest stage possible to deal with family or parenting difficulties before they are escalated to TASCC.

24.  This integrated approach is of particular importance during key transition stages, including from primary to secondary school, and from adolescence to young adulthood. It also recognizes that that vast majority of young people are living in families and that rather than viewing them in isolation, as arguably youth services have traditionally done, services and support should be provided which can meet the individual needs and aspirations of young people in the context of their family life.

25.  For vulnerable young people or those with complex needs, possibly as a result of family circumstances, targeted turnaround youth provision must be part of a multi-disciplinary approach to working with the family—not sit outside it. 4Children's research for The Family Commission showed that many parents feel that they lack support and information when they face parenting challenges with their older children. Best practice examples identified by The Family Commission including Families in Focus in the London Borough of Camden, show that you can improve the lives and experiences of children and young people by working in an integrated way. Families in Focus has had positive outcomes for children and young people on deprived estates in the Borough by bringing together children, young people and their families for positive activities which have improved relationships, supported parenting, reduced crime and strengthened families. This is good for young people as it is for parents and communities.

Early intervention

26.  Early intervention is not just about the early years of life. Providing information, advice and support before problems become crises is just as important for young people and their families as it is for under fives. It sometimes seems that policy and service delivery seeks to tackle challenges faced by young people such as NEET status, teen pregnancy or poor self-esteem and well-being as if they simply "appear" as problems in later childhood. Clearly this is not the case.

27.   We need to take a much more preventative approach which recognizes that successful transition through the ages and stages of childhood is the key to being able to fulfill your ambitions and potential during teens and early adulthood.

Young people at the heart of a Big Society

28.  Thousands of young people give up their time every year to volunteer in their community. Young people can gain life experience, new friends, self-confidence, skills, ambition and new horizons as volunteers and with young people struggling to enter the labour market volunteering can be a useful and positive step towards employment. The National Citizenship Service will develop this still further.

29.  However, as a rising number of young people engage in volunteering as a pre-curser to work it is important that their experience genuinely does build their employability and provide them with tangible and transferable skills. As we seek as a society to build young peoples' sense that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand we should demonstrate this but ensuring that the "quid pro quo" for giving your time to your community should be support for skills, training, and the transition to work.

30.  As well as being volunteers, young people collectively benefit from millions of hours of volunteered time every year. Peer and community mentors and other role models can be inspirational sources of aspiration, social capital, advice and support. We must ensure that volunteers and mentors are always welcomed and supported to play their role.

Recognize the importance of intergeneration relationships and extended family

31.  We know from the work of the 4Children Family Commission of the importance that many young people place in their extended family relationships. 58% of young people surveyed for the Commission turned to their parents or extended family member when they needed help or advice.[70] For many children and young people who are not able to live with their parents grandparents or other extended family members are a source of daily love, support and stability. The Family Commission has argued that even where children or young people are placed in the care of the Local Authority more attention should be given to sustaining family relationships with siblings, parents and the wider family network. These relationships are then capable of providing vital support during the transition from care to independence.

32.  In addition, the work of Beth Johnson Foundation and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, among others, shows the benefits of an intergenerational approach within communities with advantages accruing to all. However, much of the trailblazing intergenerational work has been small-scale pilots and individual projects. 4Children believes this approach should be mainstreamed into work on the National Citizenship Service and the Big Society.


33.  4Children supports the Government's drive to a more "outcome" focused approach to public services with less prescription on the means of delivery and a greater focus on the impacts achieved. Excellent, innovative and holistic youth provision has nothing to fear from this agenda because we know the positive outcomes that are achieved for young people and their families. That said, it is important that the outcomes on which provision is judged are capable of recognizing those things that have a highly positive impact on life chances, including "soft outcomes" and those which may not be immediately measurable.

34.   Youth provision should be measured by a series of child focused outcomes, which would include:

(a)  Well-being and emotional resilience.

(b)  Interpersonal skills.

(c)  Aspiration and a sense of agency.


35.  The recent Public Health White Paper[71] stressed the importance of well-being for young people:

1.26 Teenage years are a crucial time for health and wellbeing in later life. Half of lifetime mental illness (excluding dementia) starts by the age of 14. More than eight out of 10 adults who have ever smoked regularly started smoking before 19, and one study found that eight in 10 obese teenagers went on to be obese as adults.

3.17 As young people move through their teenage years and make the transition into adulthood, our aim is to strengthen their ability to take control of their lives, within clear boundaries, and help reduce their susceptibility to harmful influences, in areas such as sexual health, teenage pregnancy, drugs and alcohol. And they should have easy access to health services they trust, for example accredited "You're Welcome" young-people-friendly services. Public health funding, alongside the new early intervention grant, will allow local areas to develop a tailored approach that responds to the needs, age and vulnerability of the young person, and particularly targets at-risk groups.

36.  We welcome Government's commitment and focus on this area. We believe that the new structures for public health including the new responsibilities for Local Authorities have the potential to be very positive. 4Children believes that young people's health and well-being has been overly "medicalised". Local Authorities, working with partners such as voluntary organsiations, youth clubs, etc can play a positive role in ensuring young people make a wide range of healthy life choices.

37.  A second important area for young people to develop is emotional resilience. This includes learning how to deal with set-backs and problems, not giving up and persevering. This can be particularly important for a young person who does not have that strong support network at home or school.

Aspiration and agency

38.  4Children's research from the Knowsley Young People's Commission[72] has shown that young people in Knowsley are not short of aspiration but for a variety of reasons it can be difficult to unlock. In the early teenage years many young people say that they would like to go to university, travel around the world or indeed be a sports or pop star when they grow up. But it is also clear from our analysis that, in common with young people everywhere, aspirations shrink as they get older and the reality of options about post-16 life begins to kick in.

39.  More youth provision should be more specifically targeted towards the objective of widening horizons and sustaining ambition and aspiration as young people grow up and experience set backs.

40.  We also believe there is scope to do more to support young people's enterprising enthusiasm—recognising and harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit that young people often display. For too many young people there is not a clear route to channel these energies into productive enterprising activities and ventures. Youth provision should seek to develop this area of work, potentially working more closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in partnerships which can deliver real benefits for young people.


41.  As already stated, MyPlace schemes have a great potential to become centres of excellence and could play a key role in developing and sharing good practice. This is a priority and needs to be given national focus and backing.

42.  Collecting information and data has an important role to play in identifying good practice across the youth sector. With the sector going through many changes over the next few years it is vital that this information is collected and shared. Where data that would be helpful for tailoring, targeting or measuring the impact of services is held by public sector bodies, particularly schools, PCTs and Local Authorities this information should be made more readily available to voluntary sector partners. A national protocol on information sharing would ensure a uniform approach across the country.


This is a key time for young people and with reduced resources available this is a crucial time for this inquiry.

4Children has a number of recommendations for action:

(1)  The need to develop a cross-childhood strategy for Government that builds on the substantial developments in the early years to provide a strong rational and direction to policies throughout childhood including the teenage years. This would ensure that opportunities to provide early intervention and prevention were maximized and that families got the help and support they need as their children grow up.

(2)  The need for Local Authorities to develop creative and coherent reshape strategies to provide a positive and enabling framework for all activities and support for young people in the area.

(3)  The need for encouragement for universal activities and support for young people to flourish in every way possible in all communities—from great activities for young people after school, sports and arts clubs, faith based activities and community involvement and engagement, We want communities to value their young people and invest in them—through volunteering, support and local funding.

(4)  The need for a greater focus on preventative and early intervention programmes to turnaround opportunities of those young people most at risk. This means targeted, evidenced based programmes that deliver improved outcomes for young people and their families. We would like to see a new programme of pilot "teenage turnaround" programmes rolled out by Government—including health and well being. Social investment models should be explored as a priority area of funding.

(5)  The need for more sharing of ideas, creativity and good practice—maximizing the potential of MyPlace schemes to become centres of excellence.

(6)  The need for young people led design and involvement in all activities and support for young people as a core requirement in all that we do.

December 2010

68 Back

69   Assessing the impact of the Young Mayor's Scheme, Independent Academic Research Studies, October 2010.  Back

70   Family Commission Youth Survey, The Family Commission, October 2010. Back

71   Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England, Department of Health, 30 November 2010. Back

72   Knowsley Report, Knowsley Young People's Commission, July 2010. Back

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Prepared 23 June 2011