Government to review council youth work statutory guidance as part of Civil Society Strategy

By Derren Hayes

| 09 August 2018

The government is to undertake a review of statutory guidance that requires local authorities to provide youth services under plans outlined in its long-awaited Civil Society Strategy.

The Civil Society Strategy states that the government will provide "grater clarity" on what youth services the government expects councils to deliver

The strategy, Building a future that works for everyone, published today, states that a review of the guidance for councils to provide "appropriate local youth services" is needed as a result of significant changes to the way services for young people are delivered since it was last scrutinised in 2012.

The document states that the review will provide "greater clarity of the government's expectations, including the value added by good youth work".

Under section 507B of the Education Act 1996, every local authority in England must "so far as reasonably practicable, secure for qualifying young persons…access to sufficient educational and leisure-time activities which are for the improvement of their wellbeing".

The 2012 review, undertaken as part of the coalition government's Positive for Youth policy, backed retention of this duty, but since then council spending on youth services has been reduced by more than £400m and hundreds of youth centres have been closed as a result of cuts in central government funding.

The new strategy states: "The government recognises the transformational impact that youth services and trained youth workers can have, especially for young people facing multiple barriers and disadvantage."

It also commits to developing the evidence base for what good youth work looks like, including improving the quality of data, and the beneficial impact this can have on young people's life outcomes. 

The review of statutory guidance has been welcomed by the National Youth Agency (NYA).

NYA chief executive, Leigh Middleton, said: "We are pleased to see youth work officially championed by the government and recognising the transformational impact of youth services.

"Young people deserve access to effective and widely available youth services. We know local councils want to invest more in youth service but have been forced to de-prioritise youth services in the face of budget cuts in recent years - we believe this government review will recognise this and hand down the stronger appropriate guidance to address it."

Click link below for related CYP Now content:

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Other measures in the strategy includes looking at ways to "fully embed" the National Citizen Service (NCS) in the wider youth sector, consider how to further expand uniformed youth groups in disadvantaged areas, and develop cross-government measures on the attributes for positive citizenship.

There is also a commitment to create a new organisation independent of government to oversee the distribution of a £90m Big Lottery Fund generated from dormant bank accounts to help young people facing barriers to work.

The government says this new organisation will "harness the experience of grassroots youth workers, business and other local services to build a strong partnership of support around each young person".

There are a number of measures to increase young people's participation in decision-making processes - the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is to set up a youth steering group to oversee the strategy's implementation, as well as a young commissioners and inspectors group in monitoring and evaluation of national programmes.

Alan Carr, Interim chief executive of UK Youth said the strategy's strong commitment to valuing the contribution of young people is to be welcomed, but said more concrete proposals are needed to improve participation in society among disadvantaged groups.

"Whilst we fully support the thrust of the strategy, we have real concerns about the lack of practical steps to address the barriers young people from disadvantaged backgrounds face to accessing youth services and engaging in activities such as social action and NCS," he said.

"We believe the needs of all young people should be considered, regardless of their background or circumstance and urge the government to enhance the Civil Society Strategy by urgently developing concrete proposals to address this key issue."

The government committed to developing a new youth policy statement in late 2016, but last November, announced it would incorporate its future plans in a broader strategy for civil society.

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