Cash boost for youth services vital, says Unite
FEBRUARY 14, 2020
The government has announced that it will undertake a review of statutory guidance that requires local authorities to provide youth services under plans outlined in its new Civil Society Strategy which will provide "greater 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.
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."
Unite officer Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe responded to the news by saying
“At last the government is listening to what Unite and others in the sector have been saying for years about the value and cost effectiveness of statutory youth services. It’s just a shame that it has taken so long and comes when local youth services service have been slashed to the bone and over 600 youth centres have shut as a result of this government’s austerity driven squeeze on council funding over the past eight years."
“Let’s hope it’s not too late for the government to turn things around now, because our young people deserve so much better. They should not still be paying the price for the financial crisis, a decade after the crash. Unite is urging the government to beef up the statutory youth work framework provision and give young people a firmer voice on youth provision in their local areas. It also needs to fund councils properly and provide ring-fenced funding to reverse the damage it has caused.”
The news is welcomed as Unite believes that all young people deserve access to universal youth services. We understand that because of the huge financial pressures being faced by local government, it has been difficult for local councils to invest more in non statutory services and more often than not they have been forced to de-prioritise youth services in the face of draconian cuts to their budgets over the past eight years. It is hoped that this government review will recognise this and begin discussions with Unite and ChooseYouth for the adoption of a Statutory Youth Service Bill.