Government ditches youth policy statement

Plans for a new three-year youth policy statement have been dropped, although youth work will feature as part of a wider civil society strategy, it has emerged.

The creation of a new youth policy statement to give "a clear narrative and vision" for how to help young people was first announced by former youth minister Rob Wilson last November but, nearly a year on, is still yet to be published.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now confirmed that plans for a standalone youth policy statement have been dropped, with the issue of youth work and social action instead set to feature as part of wider civil society strategy announced by civil society minister Tracey Crouch.

In a written ministerial statement, Tracey Crouch said the strategy will provide an opportunity to explore ways to build new partnerships within and between sectors and communities "so that we can better mobilise resources and expertise and find practical new solutions to the problems we face".

"It will reaffirm the value that government places on civil society," she added.

"It will explore what more government can do to support its work. Civil society in England is broad. It encompasses the work of individuals, charities, youth organisations and communities.

"Civil society is increasingly diverse, with growing numbers of social enterprises, mission-led businesses and public service mutuals, as well as many more private businesses and investors that want to make a meaningful contribution.

"I would like the strategy to help shape the future direction for our work with and for civil society, and encompass all who have a role to play in building a stronger and fairer society."

Crouch said the strategy will be developed through dialogue and debate with people, groups, and organisations across government, businesses and wider civil society, with a "listening exercise" due to be launched in the new year and findings reported later in 2018.

"It will build on engagements to date, including work with young people and youth organisations, as well as work to grow social impact investing, among others," Crouch added.

Responding to a parliamentary question last month, Crouch revealed that the DCMS conducted a series of regional workshops earlier this year to discuss current issues for youth policy with representatives from the youth sector, local authorities and young people.

Leigh Middleton, managing director of the National Youth Agency, said: "I am pleased that the minister has launched consultation on a strategy for civil society and welcome the opportunity to continue our dialogue with DCMS.

"My hope is that this is a real opportunity to get young people listened to and their needs focused on by government."

Earlier this month the government was criticised by Labour over the level of cuts to youth services in recent years.

According to figures published by the House of Commons library, following a request by Labour, the amount councils plan to spend on youth services has dropped by more than a half (53.6 per cent) over the past seven years.

The analysis showed that the total net expenditure on services for young people was £787.2m in 2011/12 but fell to £364.9m by 2017/18.

Labour's shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs, Cat Smith, said the decision to drop the youth policy statement showed that the Conservatives "continue to treat young people as an afterthought".
"This indifference has real effects; figures for poverty, material deprivation and unemployment, all show young people are suffering the most under the Tories' austerity agenda," she said.
"Labour in government will prioritise young people's needs and ensure that youth policy and practice is coordinated across government."

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