Dozens of councils ignore youth service legal duty

By Laura McCardle

| 08 July 2014

Less than half of local authorities always take into account their legal duty to provide sufficient support for young people when making decisions about youth service funding, survey findings show.

Councils spent the majority of their youth services budget in 2013/14 on youth work support.

Of the 97 councils that responded to the Cabinet Office survey, only 41 said the statutory guidance plays a role in their decisions about which youth services to fund “all of the time”.

A further 33 councils said their decisions are “often” influenced by the Education and Inspections Act 1996 and only “sometimes” by 20 authorities.

In addition, two councils said youth funding decisions are “rarely” influenced by the guidance and one authority said it “never” plays a role.

The finding appears to support concerns previously raised by campaigners that ministers are failing to ensure local authorities deliver sufficient services for young people as required under the act.

Section 507B of the legislation – statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Education – places a legal duty on local authorities to secure sufficient services and activities for 13- to 19-year-olds, and young people under 24 with learning difficulties.

However, the Cabinet Office survey shows that all authorities seek the views of young people about the services they provide.

The findings shown to CYP Now also reveal that councils spent 12.5 per cent less on youth services in 2013/14 than in 2012/13, and reduced their spend from £426.8m to £373.2m.

Of the £373.2m spent last year, £117.3m was used to fund universal youth services while £195.9m was spent on the provision of targeted services.

The majority of councils’ children and young people services spend for 2013/14 went on youth work, with authorities spending £124.5m on the service.

In addition, authorities spent £50.2m on services designed to engage young people in education and training, £36.3m on advice and guidance services, and just £1.3m on student support.

The survey also shows that only 28 councils “very highly” value youth services and view them as a “very high” priority.

The findings were drawn from a survey of heads of local authority youth services, carried out to develop an understanding of frontline youth service staff and how councils are meeting their statutory requirements.

Commenting on the findings, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet Office said: "This survey shows that even though times are tough, many local authorities are finding ways of doing more for less.

"They are looking for new and creative opportunities to bring people together, build new partnerships and share resources in support of young people."

For a graphical summary of the findings click here.

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