MPs calls for fundamental review of youth service spending

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 31 October 2018

The government must carry out a fundamental review of spending of youth services as part of next year's Comprehensive Spending Review to ensure there is adequate investment, a parliamentary inquiry has recommended.

APPG for youth affairs chair Lloyd Russell-Moyle said young people had been left "with nowhere to go

A report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on youth affairs found that as a result of major financial cuts to services over the past decade, universal youth work has disappeared in some areas, with funding being diverted to short-term and targeted provision.

Increasingly high thresholds for support were also leaving young people behind, it said.

"As we enter the next Comprehensive Spending Review and an ‘end to austerity' we wish to see greater investment and commitment to support for youth services," the report, based on the findings of the APPG's inquiry on youth work and youth services, states.

"We recommend that government undertakes a review of spending on youth services, beginning by reinstating the local authority audit previously funded by government and carried out by the National Youth Agency (NYA)."

The report reveals that between 2009/10 and 2016/17 spending on youth services fell by 62.3 per cent (without accounting for inflation) - from £1.028bn to £0.388bn. Meanwhile, government early intervention funding has also fallen from £2.4bn to £1bn over the same period.

Data published by trade union Unison shows that 3,652 youth work jobs were lost and 603 youth centres closed between 2012 and 2016.

The APPG argued that investment alone will not improve provision, but should be accompanied by research into ways local authorities are successfully delivering youth services.

This might include commissioning single bodies to oversee regional youth work offers, setting up partnerships with other organisations, foundations or mutuals, and through social impact bonds.

It said reinstating the NYA audit would provide a national picture of provision, by demonstrating how the sector is currently balanced between private, public and voluntary sectors. The last time NYA published an audit was in 2007/8.

The APPG also wants to elevate the status of youth work by recommending the government recognise it as an educational process, and returning governmental responsibility for it to the Department of Education.

In addition, it wants Ofsted to become a "driver for the quality of youth work and services".

"Within education, youth work also plays an important bridging role for schools and colleges, and critically provides support and development where 85 per cent of a young person's waking hours are spent outside formal education," the report said.

In August, the government agreed to undertake a review of statutory guidance for councils to provide "appropriate local youth services".

The report calls for the government to provide clear guidance on what provision it would consider sufficient under the duty.

And to put this into action, the APPG recommends each local authority has a lead person for youth work provision, to oversee it the same way as councils oversee schools.

This would include a baseline of youth work provision overseen by the equivalent of a deputy director for children's services. It also wants to see standardised roles and ratios.

"There should be standard expectations of the ratio of professional youth workers, volunteers and other professionals with youth work skills," the report states.

Training for new youth workers should also be stimulated by the introduction of a curriculum for youth work.

APPG for youth affairs chair Lloyd Russell-Moyle said young people had been left "with nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to speak to".

"This cross-party inquiry makes a clear set of recommendations to look again at what support young people need now and to meet their ambitions for the future."

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Department for Education, have been contacted for comment.

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