“POLICY & PRACTICE: Soapbox - Forces youth groups must get DfESfunding too”

By FRANK COUSINS

| 22 January 2003

The British Forces Youth Service was established more than 25 years ago to ensure that young people whose parents are in the Forces are not disadvantaged by living overseas or in Northern Ireland. This remit has recently been extended to include many of the isolated military locations within the UK, especially where local authorities find it difficult to provide.

In the UK and overseas, youth centres are well established on almost every location where there are large numbers of families. With almost 10,000 secondary age young people accompanying their service parents overseas or in Northern Ireland, these centres are essential meeting places.

Young people can experience isolation in a foreign country with a different language and culture, and where close relatives and friends are not on hand for support.

Many service families are constantly on the move and young people find it almost impossible to put down roots.

In the UK, Forces families technically fall under the jurisdiction of local authorities, some of which make very good provision for young people.

The MOD may provide the buildings and the local authority the staffing, or vice versa.

There are many good examples of joint provision and training initiatives, with Dorset, Wiltshire, North Yorkshire, Essex and Kent to name just a few. In such cases, some DfES funding does find its way via the local authority to youth groups on military locations, and often our voluntary youth workers are provided with training free of charge.

But although the youth service does get funding from the MOD for staffing and infrastructure, it misses out on money provided by the DfES for specific initiatives. The DfES wants to reshape services for young people, and has provided funding to local authorities under the Transforming Youth Work initiative. Young people attached to the Armed forces are in danger of missing out on this. Although the youth service is highly regarded, it is obviously not the MOD's highest priority.

With no development or training funds coming directly from the DfES or local authorities, transforming and developing the service may be an uphill struggle. The DfES should recognise the BFYS as another important youth organisation, outside the local authorities, and allow it to bid directly for additional funding to transform its youth work.

Got something to get off your chest? If you work with young people or are a young person with something to say about public policy and services, email stovin.hayter@haynet.com or call 020 8267 4767.