Funding youth services

Linda Jack
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Having started my youth work career in the halcyon days of the 80s, I certainly have never known anything like the destruction of youth services that is going on now. Youth services have always been an easy target, but it would have been a brave local authority that got rid of the service altogether.  I have always believed that the youth service should be firmly rooted in education, contributing as it does, to the overall education and personal development of young people. And that is one of the reasons I was so delighted that not only did the Liberal Democrats agree to making a statutory youth service part of our "Free to be Young" policy, but that it also featured in our manifesto.

Now, no-one has shouted harder and longer to my party in general, and Nick Clegg in particular, about the impact cuts to youth services will and are having on the life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people. But the reality is that there is less money about, that the government's commitment to "localism" means they are less likely to interfere, that local authorities rarely carry out thorough impact assessments and cost-benefit analyses of their decisions and that young people still rarely have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.

In that climate, while continuing to campaign for more national and local funding for services, we can't ignore the need to look further afield for funding. Nat Wei mentioned Community Foundations as a potential source of funding when he spoke at the CHYPS convention recently - and there are others. We must ensure that the "Big Society Bank" does not lose sight of the original intention to use unclaimed assets for youth projects. Local authorities, however they decide to deliver services, must take on a leadership role, to ensure services in the statutory and voluntary sectors are co-ordinated, to ensure that young people are meaningfully involved in shaping services and to ensure we maximise limited resources.

And in the meantime, we all have to take responsibility for ensuring that our local councillors, MPs and government know the impact good youth work has on the lives of young people - an impact that doesn't just help our young people to get the most out of their lives, but also helps to create happier, more cohesive communities.