Tim Loughton: We could not possibly come out with a total figure for complete roll-out because we have not remotely reached total roll-out. We are getting economies of scale. We spent approximately £13.5 million. In addition, some philanthropic and other money came in. We are being approached by people who want to add money, on top of the Government money. We are considering converting it into a contractual scheme. We

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will then start to have some long-term estimates of the amount of money involved. Simply to do an extrapolation of the costs in the first year, which are likely to be the highest and will gradually come down, and come up with a figure of 50%, and then come up with this figure is, I have to say, disingenuous. It is also slightly disingenuous and unfair of the Chair to say that I am dwelling disproportionately on NCS. The point I made earlier was that his press release, the headline, how this report, which contains some really good stuff, was launched, was all about NCS affecting one year out of the 13 to 25-year-old cohort.

It is also not fair to say that, at the time my hon. Friend mentioned, the Government had no other youth policies. Let me remind him that in the teeth of the toughest spending round that we have had, we secured for the Department for Education £141 million of capital to fund the remainder of the 63 Myplace projects, which is an excellent scheme started by the previous Government. We ensured that the outstanding projects had financial sustainability, which some earlier ones did not have. That important youth policy, again, did not feature greatly in the report, which is a shame, because it is doing some fantastic stuff.

Last week I was in Lincoln, speaking at the Myplace network conference, seeing some fantastic examples of how Myplace centres are being used as hubs of youth activity in local communities and, particularly, focusing on how we deal with what are commonly called NEETs, which is a derogatory term. I prefer the term GREETs: getting ready for education, employment and training. Those will be centres for the youth contract, for organisations to come in and do their training, and where we can get some of the more difficult-to-reach young people into some form of employment, education and training.

Myplace centres are key to the Government’s youth—and Positive for Youth—policy. I should have liked them to feature in this report. If the Chairman of the Select Committee would like to rectify that by doing a study into Myplace centres, I should be more than happy to co-operate and give him all the resources he needs.

Pat Glass: I am sure that the Minister would like to see those things, but he is misrepresenting the purpose of the Select Committee. I understand that its purpose is to scrutinise Government business, not publicise the things that the Government want us to publicise or even to report on things that the Minister would like us to.

Tim Loughton: I have said that I respect the Select Committee and that I encourage it to study youth services and anything to do with young people. In my opening remarks I said that, whatever I may like, or not, in the Committee’s report, I welcome it. However, the report was about out-of-school activities for 13 to 25-year-olds. Myplace centres cater for out-of-school activities for that cohort and more; they were in place in part under the previous Government and money was secured for their expansion under this Government when the report was being prepared. Why did they not feature in the report? That is my point. Whether the Committee wanted to criticise them or be positive about them, they should have featured as another example of what the Government are trying to do, then the Committee could have said whether the Government needed to do

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better or to do it differently. Are we wasting £141 million? Why just talk about wasting £13.5 million on the national citizen service when we are wasting more than 10 times that—if that is the Committee’s view—on Myplace?

Mr Stuart: The Minister is wrestling with his understanding of what the Select Committee is for. The purpose of the inquiry was to focus on youth services. Perhaps we could address what the report contains. Can the Minister share with hon. Members the numbers, which we know are far from definitive, on the national citizen service? This Government are committed to transparency and openness, not least on public expenditure. Could we have some of that today on the NCS as it stands to date—and the Minister’s best understanding?

Tim Loughton: The Committee conducted an inquiry into the provision of services beyond the school/college day for young people, primarily those aged 13 to 25. That takes in a whole host of things, of which I mentioned Myplace, which cost £141 million—substantially more than the amount that has been spent, or will be spent for some years, on the NCS. I have told my hon. Friend that last year it cost some £13.5 million. The budget for this year, if we provide 30,000 places as we are looking to do, will be roughly triple that, but hopefully it will a bit less because we will get some economies of scale.

Depending on how we evolve the pilot—we are genuinely learning from it and adapting it by reference to all our partners with expertise in this regard—it may become a shorter experience in the summer, which would reduce the costs, or there may be different ways of doing it. To say that it will cost £300 million, or whatever, in a few years is entirely illusory, because I do not know how many people will be doing it.

There is a fundamental misconception here. The money is not coming from the Department for Education or from a youth budget and would not otherwise be going into youth services. The money for the national citizen service is going into youth services. This money is not being used to fund some army of central Government people; it is being provided by a host of youth organisations—the Prince’s Trust, the Football League Trust, Catch22, Groundwork and the National Youth Agency—doing youth work now. If that money were not going into the NCS through a direct funding stream from the Treasury, it would not be going into youth work. That is why I cannot understand why the Committee is not welcoming these growing resources going into a youth activity. One only has to speak to the people who have done such activity, read the surveys that we have conducted, and look at the serious work that is being done, to see its efficacy and that it is having a positive impact.

Lisa Nandy: The list of names that the Minister read sounded strangely familiar, because those organisations gave evidence to the Committee for our report, saying that the network of support for young people, which already exists and is so highly valued, is disintegrating in front of our eyes. I have to say that the Minister is starting to sound somewhat delusional, because we were overwhelmed with evidence from those organisations and young people, saying that they are losing much

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valued, highly regarded services now. In the time that he has left, out of respect to the young people who use those services, will the Minister tell us what he is going to do to stop that happening?

Tim Loughton: The hon. Lady ignores the fact that a host of youth organisations has come forward to provide national citizen service places, because they think it is a good thing to do and think that they have the expertise. In particular, we are using a host of smaller providers with real expertise in engaging with more difficult-to-engage young people, including young people who have been in the youth justice system and young people from various black and minority ethnic communities, who are not necessarily easy to engage in some youth services. Those people value it.

I do not know whether the hon. Lady went to the NCS providers in her locality, but I ask her to speak to some of those young people and to come to some presentations, such as the ones we have done with them, and see the value that they place on it.

I cannot give hon. Members a figure for what NCS will ultimately cost when we go to full roll-out, and I do not know how soon roll-out will be or what it will be, but we will not compromise the quality of this service. An absolutely key point in that regard is the fact that it is a high-quality service that is, for the young people who go on it, a life-changing experience about personal and social development.

Mr Stuart: Will the Minister give way?

Tim Loughton: I will, but my hon. Friend is eating into his time for a right of reply, and I have not even started my speech yet.

Mr Stuart: The Minister is generous in giving way, but I am still at a slight loss as to why he is so hostile. Our job is to probe this. We did not say it would cost that much. We said that, if it was scaled up at the current cost, it would cost the amount we stated, and we did so precisely to invite—we hoped—a polite, respectful response from the Ministry about what it thought it might move towards.

Derek Twine, chief executive of the Scout Association, noted that

“for the same cost per head that the NCS is anticipating spending in the first tranche of pilots we could provide two or three years’ worth of the experience, week by week, for young people in the same age range”.

Evidence of that sort led us to probe the matter, hoping that we would get a proper, civil response from the Government in due course.

Tim Loughton: That is a strange thing for the chief executive of the Scout Association to say, because it relies on no public money at all, so why is he saying that he could use that money for something else? The Scout Association is completely different.

We want NCS to be the recruiting sergeant for the Scouts, the Air Training Corps, the Army cadets and all sorts of youth organisations. They are not there to recruit people for NCS; they are recruiting people for community-minded organisations that are doing great stuff in their local communities—and the Scouts and Guides just happen to be two such organisations.

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I am not sure what to do, because I have not actually started the speech before me. I will try, however, to deal with some of the points made by members of the Select Committee. I ought to give my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) a look-in, because she has had the courtesy to stay throughout the proceedings. She made a number of points, in particular about transport and its availability to convey young people to certain facilities, notably in rural areas. That is exactly why I welcome the work of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, which we are now helping to fund, in setting up a select committee on transport, this year’s favoured UKYP campaign. I have hosted some round-table meetings, one involving the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), on transport to schools and other educational facilities and on transport for young people. I am particularly sympathetic when 16-year-olds complain, quite rightly, that they have to pay adult fares on buses and public transport. I want to find solutions to ensure that we are not laying on facilities that the very people whom we want to access them are prevented from doing so because of transport logistics.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wells also mentioned social mobility and mental disorders. Having seen some good examples, I can recognise a good youth organisation —a feeling of belonging, I think she said—which can give people confidence that they have a place in society, helping their health, and not least their mental health. The problem has been under-appreciated, with one school-age child in 10 suffering from some form of mental illness, so I welcome the Government’s paper “No health without mental health”, which has, for the first time, placed mental health on a level playing field with physical health. We need to ensure that they are getting the right interventions—early and appropriate—which in too many cases they are not. That is an important part of youth engagement as well.

Tessa Munt: Is the Minister also cognisant of the fact that people who have mental health problems when they are very young almost invariably go on to have significant mental health problems later on in life? That is at enormous cost to society and, eventually, to the state through the health services and every other way.

Tim Loughton: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s point.

I had better quickly mention the hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), who made some good and legitimate points, although she also said that she was present to “verbally duff up” the Minister. I am not entirely sure that that is why we hold our debates. We are having a full and frank exchange of views, and a constructive engagement on an important subject.

The hon. Lady mentioned the real problem of young people not in education, employment or training. Ensuring that our young people are engaged in some way is probably the single biggest challenge that we face as a society, which is why the youth contract—that £1 billion investment—is so important. An extra £123 million has been earmarked for 16 and 17-year-olds, for the 55,000 of that age group who do not have good GCSEs. They will now be engaged through that part of the youth contract that is about to be tendered.

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Initial expressions of interest—by a whole range of voluntary organisations and others, in particular those with expertise in young people—have been exceedingly encouraging. It is not only, “Here’s a young person, get them into a job,” but getting a young person to know what a job is all about—giving help with, for example, personal presentation, writing a CV, doing interviews or turning up at 9 o’clock for the training exercise or whatever is required. That is why it is so important to use those organisations with expertise in dealing with young people, from whatever sector—using Myplace centres and other facilities—to ensure that we try to give those 16 and 17-year-olds a decent chance to go back into education properly, if they have dropped out earlier; get on a meaningful training scheme, or apprenticeship; or get into some sustainable employment. The organisations will be paid for that on a payment-by-results basis, so this is not just a short-term displacement scheme; it is about sustainability.

I will deal with one last point made by the hon. Lady before I sit down to give a right of response to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness, the Chairman of the Select Committee. Some of the payment for the national citizen service was mentioned in the report, and that is a legitimate area of debate, because fewer than half of the providers last year levied a charge, and half of those in turn made it a refundable charge when the young person turned up. What we have said, and what is part of the tendering process for those who come forward to offer such places, is that charging should be done in such a way that no young person is deterred from an NCS course by financial considerations. The course needs to have a value, however, and what some of the research shows is that for those providers that levied a charge, in particular if refundable, people turned up and valued the course more. That is purely about ensuring that people do not feel, “Oh, I can sign up, it doesn’t cost me anything,” and that they need not bother to turn up—so they turn up and value it, making the most of the experience. If it turns out that that is discouraging people, we have pilots to inform how we roll out NCS in future.

We could have discussed a range of issues and a range of related things that I hope the Select Committee will return to on youth services and youth affairs generally. They are among the most important things that we deal with in Parliament, because they are one of the best investments that we can make. Therefore, I have unashamedly named and shamed local authorities, and will continue to do so, if they are being short-sighted, cutting disproportionately or not seeing the bigger picture on youth services. Positive for Youth is about ensuring that young people are empowered to have a strong voice to point that out. They are the most important customers of youth services and they must have the loudest voice about where we are doing well and where we are not.

5.26 pm

Mr Graham Stuart: With the leave of the House, it is a pleasure to serve—if one serves in this Chamber—and to debate under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I am grateful to all those who have participated in the debate. More than half the members of the Select Committee were present today, and we had excellent speeches from the hon. Members for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and for North West Durham (Pat Glass), from the shadow

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Minister, the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), from my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) and for Wells (Tessa Munt) and from the Minister himself.

We have repeatedly put one question, so although the Minister might be breathing a sigh of relief on ending his speech, I ask him, if possible, to respond now or to write to me about how much is being spent on youth services. There was a line in the Government books that they used for years to say how much they were spending on youth services, but when we quoted it the Government and the Minister said, “That number is completely wrong.” What is the right number? Where do we look to find it?

Tim Loughton: Under the local authority returns, to which my hon. Friend is privy and which I thought he had used, the spending on combined youth services for 2009-10 came to a total of £1.104 billion—spent on services to young people, such as positive activities, information, advice and guidance, teen pregnancies, substance misuse and specific youth work.

Mr Stuart: I am grateful to the Minister. The figure that we used was provided by Select Committee staff from Government figures, which I understand had been used for many years. That sounds like a different figure. Is that because of the early intervention grant, and pooling it? Can the Minister throw any other light on the matter, because it does not seem to fit with our understanding?

Tim Loughton: I have quoted the figure for 2009-10, which was before the early intervention grant existed.

Mr Stuart: The Committee will look forward to pursuing that further with the Minister, but if it is a correction I am grateful for it.

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The purpose of our inquiry was to recognise that so many youth services struggle to show their impact—we criticised them for that and also sympathised with them because of the impossibility of doing so—but we know anecdotally from young people that those services are important. We wanted to provide a platform for youth services to be heard to ensure that time was found to focus on them. We hoped that the process of conducting the inquiry would make it less likely that ill-thought-out and disproportionate cuts would be made by local authorities in a tough situation—caused by the profligate behaviour of the previous Government, to reinforce the Minister’s point and to make a tiny rebuttal of so many partisan remarks from Opposition Members.

Despite the Minister’s occasional tetchiness at our probing—

Ms Buck: Occasional?

Mr Stuart: I say “occasional”, but we are working together, and the Minister is committed. One of the best things that the Prime Minister is doing for the governance of this country is keeping Ministers in place for a decent period, at least so far. Notwithstanding the Minister’s tetchiness, I hope that Ministers remain in office for longer periods, because that will lead to better understanding of the issues with which they are wrestling. Select Committees, which probe and challenge, and write reports such as ours, do so because they care about the issues. I hope that any heat, as well as light, that we might generate will strengthen the Minister’s arm. I know that he is personally committed to the matter, and works tremendously hard to look after the interests of our young people.

5.30 pm

Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(11)).