I’m sorry to summon up the tawdry image of Tony Blair, but it’s not that long ago we would have chanted, ‘Education, Education, Education!’ in defining our work. Today the official version offers us either ‘Activities, Activities, Activities!’ or ‘Intervention, Intervention, Intervention!’ or indeed ‘Targeting, Targeting, Targeting!’ The rot set in under New Labour, but has got more rotten in the state of Cameron. If you think we protest too much, the latest proposals from the Strategic Director for Children and Younger Adults on a ‘New Youth Offer’ to the Derbyshire County Council afford us evidence for our case. It is disarmingly straightforward – not even a gesture to the tradition of social and community education, once strong in Derbyshire. I worked there in the mid to late 1980’s.
A number of excerpts follow with my less than sophisticated emphases:
The County Council’s Youth Service currently offers and arranges a range of leisure and learning activities as well as guidance and support for young people in the county aged 13-19.
Management of the Youth Service activities was integrated into the Multi Agency Teams (MATs) when they were created in April 2011. The aim was to ensure that the Youth Service was integrated with the broader range of support for vulnerable young people and families.
The Government has recently published its ‘Positive for Youth’ strategy which has three main objectives:
- To ensure that young people at risk of dropping out or underachieving take part and succeed in learning.
- To prevent crime and risky behaviour which can undermine young people’s life chances and have a cost to the wider society.
- To provide opportunities for young people who do not otherwise acquire them to develop the personal and social skills they need for learning, work and transition to adulthood.
Through the Early Intervention Grant the Government has also signalled its overall policy direction in times of more limited public funding emphasising that:
- Public funding should be focussed on the provision of targeted support for young people at greatest risk of poor performance.
- A greater share of publicly funded activities should be delivered through voluntary, community and independent sector providers to increase competition, responsiveness and innovation.
- Local people and local organisations should be more involved in shaping and delivering services to better meet local needs.
- Far greater importance should be placed on early intervention to prevent more serious difficulties for young people developing in the future.
Key Service Principles:
Taking all the above into account, as well as recognising the need for greater efficiencies in Youth Service Activities to contribute to the Council’s budget reduction requirements, Six Key Principles are proposed for the service:
There should be:
- Improved and fairer access to youth service activities for all young people wherever they live in the county.
- Improved provision of youth activities at times and in locations to suit the needs of young people and enable the service to be more effective.
- Better and more efficient use of resources particularly capitalising on the already extensive network of provision in the voluntary, community and independent sectors.
- Corresponding development of an effective MAT integrated approach coupled with the streamlining of the council’s own service provision.
- More involvement of young people and their families in shaping services to meet individuals’ needs within local circumstances.
- Greater concentration of resources on early intervention with young people and families facing difficulties.
Detailed Service Proposals
Within the above framework it is proposed that the Council should become a strategic commissioner of youth services. The direct delivery of open access youth work (i.e. youth clubs and mobile provision) would be brought to an end. However, the council would continue to provide some services directly.
- The qualified youth workers within the MAT teams would continue to support vulnerable young people and their families and would facilitate youth activities for this group.
- The majority of front-line youth activities would continue to be provided by the voluntary, community and independent sectors and direct service provision by the council would be significantly reduced.
- A Youth Activities Grants scheme would be established to support service providers and facilitate particular projects or initiatives.
Enough is enough for now. Read the full report below. The author is Ian Thomas MA, now the Strategic Director in Derbyshire, previously Assistant, and before that the Assistant Director [Social Care and Housing] in Trafford with a lead role in service transformation. His MA is in Professional Practice [Change Management]. As for experience of or indeed sympathy with youth work…………?