Tom Wylie observes – It’s impossible to maintain youth services without money

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie Former CEO, the National Youth Agency, writes to the Observer:

Your editorial (“Vulnerable children deserve better support”, Comment) demonstrates that the furore over Kids Company has crystallised how a range of concerns about the negative impact of austerity on services for young people is now spreading to those for children.

Many voices from the front line of youth work, including in Rotherham on sex exploitation and nationally on mental health, have gone unheard. In 2011, the education select committee presciently identified the sharp decline in youth services in England and called for prompt government action. It was rejected in a cloud of bluster by the then responsible minister, Tim Loughton. In the last few weeks, his successor, Rob Wilson, has expressed his disappointment in local authorities and said that good provision is not a matter of money.

At the heart of many current difficulties is the absence of government leadership to co-ordinate and set standards for the wide range of bodies that can contribute to young people’s development. The Department for Education has shed the responsibility for youth work it held for 75  years and Ofsted has ceased to inspect such community-based work. Is it any wonder that problems fester out of sight until a crisis occurs? Responsibility for the co-ordination of youth policies now rests with the cabinet office; since Wilson is a minister there, perhaps he can demonstrate what can be achieved for the young across the country with no money and a declining number of youth workers.

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