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Youth Work Inquiry Reports Back!

JANUARY 21, 2020

The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on youth affairs, a cross party committee headed up by Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP and with input from the National Youth Agency (NYA), has released its initial recommendations and a summary of its findings and has called on government for greater investment and commitment to support for youth services.

The report was launched at the NYA's Youth Summit, which brought together hundreds of representatives from different parts of the youth sector landscape. The report recommendations call on government to address the severe challenges that youth services face as a result of major financial cuts to services over the past decade which have seen universal youth work disappearing in some areas, with funding often being diverted to short-term and targeted provision.

Cuts to youth services were highlighted by keynote speakers including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP who cited the very long list of challenges and intense pressures that young people face, recognising that young people and youth workers have to be involved in developing the solutions to address these challenges. "Nothing about us, without us".

The APPG recommendations highlighted the need to elevate the status of youth work and suggest that this is done by recognising it as an educational process, and returning governmental responsibility for it to the Department of Education. This is something Unite has been calling for as well as the need to establish clear arrangements for internal quality assurance complemented by regular external inspection and reporting by Ofsted.

The interim report outlined eight key recommendations, many of which took into account key areas that were presented in Unite’s submission to APPG, and urged government to:

1.  Youth work is a distinct educational process which supports the personal and social development of young people. It needs to be recognised as such and we recommend it is better placed within the Department for Education.                                                                                                              

2.  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. 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 NYA.   

3.  To secure investment there needs to be a greater understanding of the role of youth work and impact of youth services. We call on the statutory and voluntary sector to form a compact with young people for a clear policy statement and guidance which recognises the benefits of youth work. 

4.  We welcome the Government’s commitment to review the statutory duty and we call on the youth sector and other bodies to fully engage in the consultation on the statutory duty. We recommend clear guidance on what is sufficient provision under the duty.  

5.  Just as a local authority no longer necessarily directly runs schools in its area, it nonetheless has to plan for sufficient school places. We recommend there is a lead role for the local authority to ensure access to sufficient, quality youth work provision in an area.  

6.  Over the last decade, open-access or universal youth services have been especially hard hit, with the notable exception of the National Citizen Service, which provides a great experience for 16- and 17- year-olds but it is a time-limited programme and just one part of a broad youth offer to support yearround provision that meets the needs of young people locally. We call for clear guidance and investment in a base-line for local youth services which also allows an ‘eco-system’ of youth work provision to flourish in a community.  

7.  A coherent workforce strategy needs to be developed for the totality of the children’s workforce and renewed national standards for youth work by 2020. We recommend all those supporting youth work adhere to national occupational standards and a curriculum for youth work training.  

8.  With youth work recognised as ‘education’ in its open-access provision and in supporting vulnerable young people in its targeted provision, we recommend the reinstatement of the role of Ofsted as a driver for the quality of youth work and services.

In August, the government agreed to undertake a review of statutory guidance for councils to provide "appropriate local youth services" and the report calls for the government to provide clear guidance on what provision it would consider sufficient under the duty.

Whilst Unite welcomes this report and the recommendations that it contains we are very clear that there is need for a statutory youth service, with dedicated ring fenced funding, provided by a core of JNC qualified youth workers from the statutory and voluntary sector, working with trained and supported volunteers with one full time nationally qualified youth worker for every 400 young people.


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