Letters to the Editor: Youth work focus does not go far enough

James Cathcart; Bob Reitemeier
Monday, August 27, 2018

Having a statement or policy on youth work, however limited, has been a long time coming. Not since Positive for Youth have we had a definitive refresh of the government's approach to young people, and it looks like the ongoing influence of the youth voice movement, and youth services lobby, has been heard in some quarters.

It is not as far-reaching as I would have liked, but it recognises the role of youth services and youth voice within a civil society context. But will that be enough to herald a revival of community "youth services", when the actual investment has been in "youth serving" communities? Will it enhance the inclusion of both as part of other civil society policies that affect everyone, or will being part of the Civil Society Strategy dilute their share in the bid for resources?

I would have preferred a full-time youth minister and voice at Cabinet level to champion the review, consultation, and strengthening of Section 508b guidance, and lead a stronger commitment to co-ordinating youth policies on a range of issues such as mental health, transport, education, as well as youth services. So not quite a youth policy statement, and certainly not a cross-department strategy.

It is not just about the balance between the role of public sector/civil society, but the overall gaps, spaces and holes that are opening up as councils continue to cut back. Is this an appeal to charities and people-led initiatives to step up to serve and fill the gap, and will it empower more voices to be critical of the existing local system of democracy? What I do not see on the horizon is a system to hold all of the above to account. Like Positive for Youth, we have not had that level of accountability since 2011.

James Cathcart, founder, Young Voice Heard

Parents need support to tackle social mobility

The speech on social mobility by Damian Hinds was very important (Government to invest in school nurseries in deprived areas, cypnow.co.uk, 1 August). It confirmed the critical importance of both language and literacy for children. It represents a 10-year commitment to supporting children's language and literacy skills, and it is exactly the right thing to do if we are serious about addressing social mobility.

This is important because 10 per cent of all children have a long-term, persistent speech, language and communication need that they will not grow out of on their own. These children require specialist support.

In some areas of social disadvantage, up to 50 per cent of children show signs of delayed language, which means their level of listening skills, vocabulary and comprehension is below what it should be at their age. These children benefit greatly from programmes that boost their language.

In all cases, the role of parents is critical in the development of their child's language. Most parents want the best for their child, but many are understandably not familiar with the research that shows how important it is to talk to your child to develop their language. We need to support parents, especially in disadvantaged areas, in understanding ways and methods of encouraging language.

The government's 10-year ambition to address early language presents us with a real opportunity to support parents and tackle social mobility.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive, I CAN

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