Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by BBC Children in Need


1.  BBC Children in Need is the largest independent funder of disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. Our definition of disadvantage is broad and encompasses: poverty and deprivation, disability, illness, abuse and neglect and behavioural problems. In the last 10 years we have granted over £300 million to nearly 16,000 organisations. In 2010 we made 1,275 grants to the value of £39 million and anticipate that in 2011 we will make grants to a similar level.

2.  In terms of youth services, we are currently supporting 459 projects to a value of around £22.5 million addressing the needs of disadvantaged young people across the UK (280 projects at £15 million are in England alone). These projects include generic youth work and clubs, outreach or detached, issue based and drop in youth work. Alongside these we support many other forms of projects and activities that reach young people including arts and creativity (£8.6 million), befriending and mentoring (£6 million), counselling (£11 million), sports and health (£5.8 million) and training and employment (£7.8 million, including a discrete £2 million NEET focused programme funded in partnership with The Hunter Foundation).

3.  Our submission to the Education Committee's review of services for young people is from the perspective of an independent funder and is based on many years experience as a grant-maker in this sector. This text also draws on learning that has come from an internal review of community-led youth clubs for disadvantaged young people. This involved in-depth interviews with the providers of 57 youth clubs across the UK, an online survey of over 200 young people attending youth clubs and separate learning events with providers and young people.

4.  While this submission refers primarily to mainstream youth provision, we have experience and knowledge about provision to more targeted groups such as disabled, homeless, in care and offending young people. There are many similar issues in planning for and delivering to these more targeted groups; however, there are also some very specific factors in meeting their needs that are not represented here.


Relationship between universal and targeted services (in targeted settings)

5.  Our emphasis on meeting the needs of disadvantaged children and young people means that most of what we fund needs to be targeted in nature. For many of the youth services we fund, particularly youth clubs, this can involve having an open door policy in targeted communities. The activities and services will then become more targeted as the young people engage.

6.  Having a universal approach in marginalised or deprived communities brings its own set of challenges to engaging harder to reach young people that universal services in more well-off areas may not experience. From our review of community led youth clubs we learned that these include:

—  young people's concerns, such as fear of violence, bullying and stigma;

—  parental concerns, such as worry about their child's safety and the focus of the service;

—  chaotic lifestyles of certain families preventing attendance;

—  other interests pulling young people away, for example "it's weed or alcohol or us" (from a youth club provider); and

—  harder-to-reach groups can be different in nature and more challenging to engage than in more well off communities.

7.  Having a universal service in a marginalised community but with an outreach strategy to engage the harder-to-reach young people is an important approach for youth services. Indeed, this universalism can be a facilitator to engagement as it can allay concerns that it is only for "poor" or "troublesome" young people that can keep all young people away.

8.  Another benefit of being universal in a targeted setting is that youth services providers report that it is important to establish and maintain links with other services in their communities, such as police, social services and schools, in order to identify hard-to-reach young people. The providers can then use this information to support their outreach practices, such as knocking on doors, going to where young people "hang-out" and distributing flyers.

9.  All projects we have spoken to acknowledge that it takes time to build up trust and relationships with a community and the young people in it; hence our assertion that having a genesis and maintaining a role within a community is an essential element of engaging all young people, including those who are considered harder to reach.

10.  Supporting the principle that to engage you need an embedded local service with outreach capacity, we learned from a survey of over 200 young people that two-thirds of them need little additional information about their youth clubs in order to attend. They have friends who tell them about it, have "always known about it" or it is near where they live. The remaining third were engaged through outreach activities, such as information in their schools, referrals from elsewhere and being approached by a club leader.

Volunteering and National Citizen Service priorities

11.  Many community-based projects have volunteers from the local community. An aspect that is important in their connection to the young people from the community they served. In our review 80% of the projects had previous and current users of the clubs as volunteers. There was a clear message that this recruitment required little effort as young people engaged in the project often actively want to be volunteers. For many attendees becoming a volunteer is a natural transition from their youth club as their sense of responsibility develops and they "want to give back" and/or as they are not ready to leave the club completely.

12.  Having young volunteers who were past participants brings many benefits to the club and those attending. These include:

—  developing a young person's sense of public contribution as they give back to the youth club, other young people and the community;

—  having volunteers with current life experiences that help them empathise with and relate to engaged young people and become mentors or role models;

—  they know how the youth club or service works and can guide young people through its range of offerings, including how to access more targeted support;

—  the young volunteers can have relationships with and support attendees outside the youth service and this can develop their sense of responsibility within their community;

—  the volunteering helps in the transition to life after the youth service;

—  seeing young volunteers encourages others to do the same when they reach a similar stage or age—it becomes an ambition to progress through the service from participant to volunteer;

—  particular challenging young people may hold respect for an older teenager which they may not offer to a leader; and

—  some young volunteers may progress to or also be part of the management of the project, building their skills and capacity in running and managing voluntary and community services.

Who accesses services, what they want and their roles in shaping them

13.  From the data of our current portfolio of 459 active youth projects we see that the 50% of young people expected to attend youth services are aged 10 to 15 years, with an equal distribution on each side of that with 22% being 5 to 9 year old and 21% being 16 to 18 year olds.

14.  In terms of main issues worked with, 60% of the youth services we fund have a primary focus on working with young people living with issues of poverty or deprivation. Other main issues being addressed included young people with very risky behaviours (17%) and those who are disabled (8%).

15.  Young people are not necessarily bonded to one youth club and they do not necessarily attend those closest to where they live. From our survey, almost a third of young people attend more than one youth club even if their main youth club was within walking distance, which was the case for just over two thirds of young people. The choices by young people are a combination of pragmatic and discerning factors including: location, opening hours, activities and services offered, where their friends go, the people that run it and, even, where their parents prefer them to be.

16.  A key factor is that a youth club fits (in a social as much as a geographical context) within the regular contact points in their lives, for example, home, school, family and friends. Young people are less likely to engage with services set away from these. For some, it matters less if the youth club or service is not the biggest or the best, as large, anonymous centres can be intimidating and require a certain amount of confidence to engage.

17.  The options are naturally comparatively restricted for young people living in rural areas—where provision may be narrow or non-existent and transport to services elsewhere is a significant barrier. This emphasises the importance of competition in improving the quality of services. Where choices are restricted there is a higher possibility of services being under-developed, which can include the calibre and capabilities of the youth workers and the aspirations of the young people attending.

18.  For many young people a youth club is a place for them to connect with friends, trusted adults and have something to do. That this engagement may lead to increased self-awareness and confidence or a greater sense of direction in life may not be initially clear to young people. However, in our interviews and survey with young people there was a sense of appreciation for what their youth club was doing or had done for them since they engaged. We heard that these young people wanted more of the same. In fact, 94% of the young people we surveyed stated their youth club had at least made "a bit of a difference" to their life: within this, 22% claimed it had totally changed their lives. In interviews the young people were able to express how the clubs had:

—  offered them alternatives to previous risky or problem behaviour;

—  provided development and career opportunities;

—  built confidence;

—  enabled them to have some fun;

—  given them something to do;

—  allowed for a safe place to be with friends and meet new ones; and

—  introduced them to caring adults who had become role models.

It is worth noting that what is appealing for funders is not necessarily the same aspect that motivates a young person to engage, for example, they will sign up for a trip but not a workshop on substance misuse. Our funding tries to take account of the nuances and incentivisation aspects of programme planning.

19.  The establishment of community-based youth clubs has traditionally come from wider community interests who recognise a gap for young people in their area or have real or perceived concerns about "youth nuisance". The involvement of young people, however, in instigating the need for and leading the development of youth clubs in their communities is not always obvious. Only three out of 57 providers we interviewed said the youth club was what the young people wanted and only one stated that the young people were the main interest that drove the establishment of their youth club. More positively, a third were able to talk more broadly about the young people being involved in some capacity at set-up. For the most part this involvement consisted of young people being consulted (including via outreach), being part of community groups or committees and leading or assuming leadership of a club's development. Many of these youth clubs that have had young people's engagement at the outset have been established in the past twelve years. This highlights the more modern practice of young people's participation in matters that concern them.

20.  We also asked young people how they engaged in their youth clubs ongoing decision-making. This revealed that only 5% of young people felt they had no involvement with decisions in their youth club. For the remaining 95% it was possible to identify those who saw their contributions on an individual level and those who saw them on a collective level, that is, were part of group decision-making within their youth club. In fact, young people were increasingly likely to be involved in group decision-making the older they were. It was also common for youth clubs to have a scale of involvement by age. For example: 12 year-olds as participants choosing their activities; 15 year-olds assuming voluntary responsibilities such as leading younger people in activities; and 18 year-olds becoming full volunteers and/or members of management committees.

21.  As a funder it remains difficult for us to ascertain the quality of young people's involvement in projects. We recognise that making the space and time for participation can be more for the benefit of organisations applying for funding than for the benefit of young people. We also recognise that clubs which have their genesis in the community do not always start from the premise that participation and empowerment is an essential part of youth work and that this understanding and the know-how to implement it can require time and support to develop.

Roles of voluntary, community, statutory and private sectors in providing youth services

22.  We see the interaction and links between all these sectors as vital in the provision of effective youth services. Much of what needs to be achieved to improve the lives of vulnerable young people relies on sharing knowledge, expertise and resources across organisations operating in these different spheres. It is common for many of the voluntary and community youth services we fund to be part of or contributing to multi-agency or integrated working groups in their local area.

23.  The expert knowledge from statutory youth-worker stakeholders is valuable, especially their connections to the latest information on issues being addressed and where to link for support and best practice. With the possibility of less statutory youth services, there is a risk that the loss of this expertise will create a knowledge vacuum in local areas across the country.

24.  For community-based services we know that strong links with local business, statutory and voluntary organisations:

—  enable referrals to and from each other which is especially important for marginalised young people;

—  are sources of key local knowledge about issues, individual young people and service opportunities and challenges;

—  enhance opportunities to share resources and reduce costs, such as accessing / providing in-kind support;

—  widen the choices of services, facilities and activities for young people; and

—  enable a co-ordinated holistic approach to needs, leading to better support for young people.

25.  In the forthcoming era of budget constraints we expect the need for community providers to build and form relationships with other local organisations and across sectors to increase in importance.

Training and Workforce Development

26.  Training for part-time workers and volunteers has traditionally been something workers would receive on the job or in their own time. The increasing emphasis, however, on those working in the sector to be highly skilled in engaging and delivering provision to young people has resulted in added pressure on the voluntary and community sector to ensure that the volunteers and staff they are using are appropriately trained.

27.  We learned that there was an equal split across providers of youth clubs about what were essential attributes when recruiting staff and volunteers. "Personal qualities and experience" were viewed as the most essential for 43% of providers while qualifications and skills were most important for 42%.

28.  The personal qualities highlighted by providers included:

—  having empathy and respect for young people;

—  being positive role models;

—  trustworthiness;

—  being tolerant and patient; and

—  enthusiasm and willingness to do extra.

29.  While many were able to identify desirable qualifications and experience for working in youth clubs as important, there was a mixed response to making qualifications and/or experience a requirement in recruitment.

30.  Being local and having local knowledge of the community and the youth club itself are also highly-valued features of staff and volunteers.

Public sector spending cuts

31.  We currently support around 2,400 not-for-profit organisations working with disadvantaged children and young people across the UK. In 2010 we saw requests to the value of £226 million against available funds of £39 million—a ratio of almost £6.50 requested for every £1 available. We are anticipating increased demand on our available funds in the coming year.

32.  While it is very early days in terms of understanding the implications of local spending decisions, the number of requests we received to fund youth services in England in our January 2010 grant round as compared to our January 2011 grant round rose by 35%. The regions with the most prominent increases are in the South West and North of England.

How value and effectiveness of services can be assessed

33.  Having the best evidence available to assess the needs of young people and the effectiveness of the services that work with them is essential to us when making decisions about new and continuing funding.

34.  We provide mandatory Self-evaluation Training to organisations where we fund salaried posts in order to bolster their ability to report on the outcomes they achieve for children. We have done this through investment in around 60 training days a year for funded organisations across the UK. This ability of projects to self-evaluate and reflect on their performance against desired outcomes (successes and failures) will remain of utmost importance to projects seeking further support. We have identified a challenge for many organisations in setting up straightforward systems to capture relevant and regular qualitative data to enable outcomes to be analysed and understood.

35.  We also recognise that there will be a greater responsibility for the larger funding or infrastructure organisations (including statutory bodies) to take a lead in aggregating the lessons and outcomes from across the work of the smaller, less well resourced voluntary and community sector organisations. Further, assessing the value and effectiveness of youth services does not rest with one group or type of stakeholder within the sector, ie, it cannot be the sole responsibility of providers. There is vested interest for all stakeholders to work together to gather, analyse, exploit and share data and knowledge in order to develop the best possible practices and structures to meet and address the needs of all young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.


36.  Open access services in disadvantaged settings are important for engaging the young people in the communities they are set. When commissioning and planning universal services in targeted communities it will be important to ensure a range of direct contact strategies are in place to engage the "harder-to-reach" young people in that area.

37.  It is important to encourage services to develop and maximise opportunities for progression through youth services; for example, from participant to volunteer to youth worker. Alongside this, to help the young people connect their growing responsibilities within their youth services to the wider communities in which they are based.

38.  Establishing and maintaining links with other agencies and providers in local communities may become increasingly challenging in the more localised and increasingly competitive commissioning environment. All providers in the new settings need to be supported and encouraged to remain open to sharing resources and knowledge and developing partnerships in order to ensure services for young people are their most effective.

39.  We need to recognise that not all providers, in particular those from community grass-root origins, have the resources and capacity to recruit appropriately qualified staff; or train their workforce (including volunteers) to the level that would be preferred. For many who recruit based on personal qualities and experience, on-the-job training is all they are able to offer. There is a need for much more high-quality short-burst training on the job for youth workers who have the right qualities, attributes and life experience but who lack the knowledge of how to translate these in a sustained way into effective youth work practice.

40.  Recruiting a workforce (paid and voluntary) from local communities offers many benefits to all involved. Providing localised support to recruit and train people from the communities being reached is therefore needed.

41.  As finances tighten and all stakeholders rearrange to maintain service provision, there will need to be a careful focus on the ongoing ability of providers to engage young people in planning and decision-making. All effort should be made to ensure that participation of young people does not fall away because it becomes too difficult and/or expensive within new arrangements.

42.  Assessing value and effectiveness of services and interventions that work to improve the lives of young people is not just the responsibility of those leading the provision. Resources and capacity to assemble and exploit learning could be developed in local partnerships in order that learning about effectiveness and good practice is maximised and not lost.

1 April 2011

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Prepared 23 June 2011