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
was run by our Make Space youth campaign and supported
by Nestle. It's consultation of 16,000 young people found that:
than 25% felt they had a significant say over services and activities
aimed at them.
said they were confused about where to go for support.
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
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
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 unchangedthe sector has not modernized
significantly. Access to good, inspirational activities is limited
and there is little preventative support for those that are at
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
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
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
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
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."
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 Centrea 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
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
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
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
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
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 familynot 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
40. We also believe there is scope to do more
to support young people's enterprising enthusiasmrecognising
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
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 communitiesfrom 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 themthrough 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 Governmentincluding
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 practicemaximizing 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.
68 http://www.makespace.org.uk/activities/make-space-youth-review. Back
Assessing the impact of the Young Mayor's Scheme, Independent
Academic Research Studies, October 2010. Back
Family Commission Youth Survey, The Family Commission,
October 2010. Back
Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health
in England, Department of Health, 30 November 2010. Back
Knowsley Report, Knowsley Young People's Commission, July