Services for young people - Education Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Philip Moore, CYWU Luton Branch Secretary

1.  We assert that the relationships between universal youth services and targeted support are crucial to the success of youth work as whole for young people. Whilst there are many young people who would benefit from targeted youth services, all young people benefit from universal youth services. A local example of the relationship between universal and targeted services can be found in the joint projects aimed at reducing young people in the NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) category. In Luton, youth workers and Connexions PA's have delivered projects aimed at encouraging young people back into work, youth workers have used their core skills of engagement, rapport and empowerment to develop positive and professional relationships with young people in difficult circumstances to encourage them to seek new ways to make better lives for themselves and play an active role within their communities. Our Connexions colleagues have used these skills also and imparted their expert knowledge in terms of creating CV's, job searches and exploring educational options. These projects have reduced the figures labelled NEET in both North and West Luton. In youth centres and provisions across Luton, youth workers develop relationships with young people in universal settings, they identify the issues that young people need "targeted" support with and provide that through group work, residential experiences and reward progress and development. They have often worked with generations from the same families within their communities and are aware of the challenges faced by the young people coming through; they can prevent rather than cure.

2.  Young people are the group who volunteer the most. Much of this volunteering has been encouraged and supported by Youth Workers—in both local and voluntary sectors. It is reasonable to deduce that a cut in Youth Workers will lead to a reduction in the number of young people who volunteer. Youth Services provided by local authorities can support, provide and deliver voluntary opportunities in partnership with a range of voluntary and private sector organisations and meet the aims of the National Citizen Service as devised by Government. They can already do this and with correct funding can do more. Not only can they achieve this temporarily but on an ongoing, generation to generation basis. For example, take the 365 day a year provision Youth Services provide and compare that with the temporary, summer season National Citizens Service. A local example of volunteering schemes for young people is the work happening between local author and voluntary Youth Services in Luton and vinvolved organisation. In Luton, we work together to provide opportunities for young people to volunteer within youth provisions, we encourage young people to seek out volunteering opportunities. As a service, we also deliver the Duke of Edinburgh Award of which there is volunteering section. The Youth Service provides opportunities and youth workers work with private and voluntary organisations to help young people achieve their volunteering aims.

3.  Luton is a multi-cultural town and therefore all types of young people access the provisions provided by the local authority and voluntary organisations irrespective of ethnicity, gender, ability. In order to maintain the acceptance of other cultures, beliefs and attitudes, youth workers work hard to ensure that this is possible. We already monitor who uses what provisions and when, we strive to ensure that we are "open to all" and work with our local communities to tackle issues that are important to young people and their parents. All young people have needs that the Youth Service meets. It is used by young people from most social classes but is especially used by young people who suffer social disadvantage and those from minority ethnic communities. In Luton, we consult young people on the services we deliver and we are able to drill this down to a local level. The young people tell us what they want and when they want it. Most, if not all, youth provisions have a young person led management committee supported by trained and skilled youth workers who engage the young people to make decisions about their lives rather than have someone else "do" something to them. A local example is an area youth forum named Young Voice which operates in North Luton, the members attend the local Area Committees, engage in the political processes and provide and deliver a report to residents, stakeholders and partners to update them on what they have been campaigning and fighting for on behalf of their peers within the localities. This encourages and demands them to shape the provision they receive and challenges the stereotypes that are all too prevalent, about young people.

4.  The local authority and voluntary youth sectors have been working together for the last 70 years in a co-dependent partnership. The current cutbacks to local authority funding will result in major damage to all youth work and significant reductions in the voluntary sector capacity and ability to deliver services. With reductions in funding for these voluntary organisations, how is the big society plan to work? If there are no voluntary organisations to provide voluntary opportunities, how can this progress? A local example is that of LAMP, who support homeless or without accommodation young people to develop life skills and move into permanent accommodation, they have recently experienced a knee jerk reactionary cut to their local authority funding, plunging them and the young people who they work with into uncertainty and frantic scrambling to survive.

5.  Training for youth workers is generally good, effective and appropriate. The training for professional qualification is under severe threat from the proposed removal of Band C Higher Education funding. Youth and Community work students are generally non-traditional entrants and our courses have made higher education accessible for people who volunteered in their communities and worked with young people for years. Our courses depend upon 50% placement practice so theory can be applied in practical situations. Youth Work is a skilled occupation depending upon sufficient numbers of professionally qualified youth workers working to specialist JNC terms and conditions. Youth Work as a profession needs to be subject to a full workforce development programme as outlined in the Lifelong Learning UK Youth Work Work Force Manifesto. A local example is a scheme supported by the local authority, whereby Youth Workers in Training are funded to access the Youth and Community Work Honours degree at the local University and are able to put the theory they have studied into their practical work environments and therefore benefiting the young people in their communities and Luton as a whole. There is a need for Youth Workers to continue their commitment to learning. Whilst the issues young people face may not change rapidly, there are developments in how they face these challenges. As a GP would be expected to be on top of medical developments, so should a professional youth worker be entitled to develop and improve their practice through research led learning and development opportunities.

6.  Youth Work generates £8 for every £1 invested in it (Audit Commission figures). The current cutbacks and indeed closure of the Youth Service will result in significant decline in support for young people and could lead to huge additional costs for central and local government in interventions which would not have been necessary had youth work funding continued. As is generally accepted in business terms, once you invest or give someone money, you expect a return. This needs careful consideration when applying it to services for young people. Whose needs are going to be satisfied? Value for money is a well used term but is relative to what and who defines value. If we listen to young people, they usually tell us what services they want and when, this needs to be considered when local authorities turn commissioner. Who will be on hand to support them decide, accountants or people who work with young people? It is fair to reason that innovation and creativity can be stifled by outdated operating procedures and bureaucracy, a full and comprehensive review of local government structures and statutory frameworks in relation to young people's services needs to happen. Every Child Matters helped to focus young people's services and the workers in that sector and had youth work elements at its core, but young people need the flexibility and easy access to have their say on the services they want and when they want them. It is they, with support from skilled and qualified Youth Workers, who should shape their local services not academics and think tank policy makers in Westminster. In order to ensure that these localised and young person led services are up to scratch, Youth Work needs to be funded to levels proposed in "Resourcing Excellent Youth Services" and inspected by Ofsted and immediate intervention should take place by the Minister to stop the cuts and the many proposals to end local authority youth service provision.

7.  In summary, Youth Work benefits urban towns like Luton in a massive way. Qualified and skilled Youth Workers are providing positive activities outside of school hours for young people to engage in, somewhere safe and warm to be with their friends and develop themselves personally and socially, helping them to avoid being caught up in negative behaviours and avoid becoming a burden, rather than an asset, to their communities. To remove these services and rely on untrained community members is unfair and detrimental to our young people and their communities. No one wants to see hordes of young people on the streets and multiplying the risk of them engaging in criminal or anti-social activities. We also assert that Youth Services need to be funded properly and measured for effectiveness and value by local young people in partnership with Ofsted. We assert that Youth Work is a skilled occupation and excellent Youth Work and the results it can achieve is dependent upon professionally qualified Youth Workers and Youth Support Workers working to specialist JNC terms and conditions. We assert the need for ongoing personal and professional development as outlined in the Lifelong Learning UK Youth Work Workforce Manifesto. We assert Youth Work has a long, well proven and effective history of delivering high quality work with young people. It is part of education. Learning outside of the classroom is vital and personal and social education can transform lives. The best example of this is outdoor education, where activities take place where young people gain a real sense of achievement and conquer their fears. We assert that youth work is effective, can meet the needs of young people and is extremely good value for money. Finally, we express grave reservations about the lack of skill, safeguarding, infrastructure, health and safety capacity and professionalism of some of the newly formed organisations that have received cost ineffective funding to run the National Citizen Service summer schemes. The National Citizen Service gets £370 million, while at the moment; the Youth Service looks likely to lose most of its £300 million. If the Government can direct funding for a particular project, it should direct funding to a permanent Youth Service. The modern Youth Service was created over fifty years ago when the national debt was double what it is now.

December 2010

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