The government is in a race against time if it is to build on
the successes of last year’s summer holiday schemes to occupy
young people. Kate Coxon reports.
The arrival of the summer holidays often sees a rise in low
level crime in some areas with many teenagers unoccupied.
As a result, summer activity programmes for young people have
been a feature of the government’s commitment to reduce
street crime. An evaluation of last year’s £16m
Connexions Summer Plus, a programme that targeted young people at
risk, suggested that youth crime fell by up to 11 per cent in areas
running the schemes, but increased by 10 per cent in areas without
This year the Department for Education and Skills and the New
Opportunities Fund are joining forces with the Youth Justice Board,
Home Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport to combine
existing schemes and launch a new Positive Activities for Young
People programme in the summer, a joint initiative to support young
people aged between eight and 19 who are referred and identified as
living in a high risk area.
According to the DfES, “final budgets and an exciting new brand
identity have yet to be confirmed” but the programme is expected to
run over three years with combined budgets for the first year
estimated to be in the region of £25m. The scheme is aimed at
diverting young people at risk of social exclusion and committing
crime, and encouraging engagement in communities.
A criticism made of similar schemes in the past, such as Splash
and Splash Extra (run by youth offending teams) and Connexions
Summer Plus is that the effects are short-lived. When the holidays
end, so do the programmes and the young people return to their
previous lives. But the Positive Activities programme is meant to
address the long-term impact of antisocial behaviour more
effectively. The DfES states that diversionary activities will be
provided for the holidays, but that out-of-school activities will
be available for young people throughout the year.
This issue of continuity is an important one, according to Pete
Loewenstein of the National Youth Agency. “It’s a good thing
that money is being made available this summer and in other
holidays and that the government has listened to some of our
concerns, but it’s also important that we work with young
people at times that matter for them. It will be interesting to see
how much these programmes will extend beyond the summer holiday –
what about evenings, after school and weekends, and also
He is also keen that monitoring and evaluation is continuous.
“The Youth Justice Board has evidence that similar programmes
reduced offending last year, but we need to make sure we also look
at offending patterns in those areas over the few months after the
Sport – and football in particular – is seen as one way forward
in crime reduction. Sport and team activities are thought to build
self-esteem, increase skills and reduce problematic drugs use. Last
month, the government announced £16.4m for the Positive
Futures programme and launched 37 new projects for the scheme
supporting young people by engaging them in sport, education,
training and employment.
Gustavo Lastra, youth inclusion area manager for Nacro in
Sheffield runs a year-round project to engage disaffected young
people aged 14-19 through sport, particularly football in
partnership with Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United football
clubs. The project is part of Sheffield Futures, formed from the
merger of the city’s careers guidance service and youth
service, and one of the largest contributors to the Connexions
service in the country. Additional, targeted activities such as
football tournaments are laid on for the summer.
Lastra believes that summer programmes should not just be about
entertaining young people through leisure. “There is an important
educational role to be played here – we need to use activities as a
springboard to get them into crime prevention activities and drug
awareness sessions.” He is cautious about the new initiative. “In
the past, with schemes like these, big chunks of funding have gone
to the main statutory agencies. In my opinion, they haven’t
always delivered. I’d like to see more funding channelled
through communities and different groups in the voluntary
While Lastra says that it is right for the new programme to
target only those individuals who are most at risk from offending
or drug use, others, such as Loewenstein argue for a more
inclusive, neighbourhood-wide approach. “It’s important that
these activities are made available to whole neighbourhoods. There
is research showing that if you target young offenders alone, you
confirm them in their offending behaviour. Activities need to be
seen as being for all young people, and not as
‘rewards’ – as some may see it – for ‘bad’
young people. We need to be sure that we are not further
stigmatising one group of young people.”
The Positive Activities programme with its scope for extension
beyond the summer, is an exciting prospect. But at the end of the
first week in June there was no information available about precise
activities, final budgets, final areas, pilot areas or local
delivery agents. It was not possible to speak with anyone who was
going to be involved with the projects. Much it seems is still to
be decided. Given the known difficulties of recruiting suitably
qualified staff for seasonal programmes this is alarming.
Let’s hope it gets going before the sun goes in.
Positive Activities for Young People: key
- £25m for first year (funding for positive activities
increased by 20 per cent from last year).
- Programme to be officially launched in July with a “new
- Programmes to run until March 2006 targeting young people at
risk in areas hardest hit by crime, truancy and split
- Diversionary activities with key worker support for those at
risk (funded through Connexions partnerships).
- Quality arts, sports and cultural activities key objective of
- Young people from different communities brought together to
break down prejudices.
- Volunteering and active citizenship to promote community
- Long-term focus: support beyond summer.
Connexions Summer Plus and Splash 2002: models for
Connexions Summer Plus:
- Over 10,000 young people aged 8-19 engaged in 34 Local
Education Authority areas between July and September 2002.
- Early indications are that crime by young people decreased
significantly more in Summer Plus areas than the rest of
- Qualitative interviews showed the effect of programmes was
positive, with improvements in self-confidence, empathy for others
and respect for authority figures.
- Initial data suggest a high proportion of those eligible are
returning to school with renewed motivation.
Splash 2002 (Youth Justice Board):
- Over 15,000 young people involved in Summer Splash which
targeted 13-17 year olds at risk in high crime neighbourhoods.
- Recreational activities (sports, music, drama, arts) run
alongside support and advice sessions on sexual health, alcohol and
drug abuse, personal health and hygiene and anger management.
Vocational training provided by some schemes.
- Total crime fell in Splash areas by 7.4 per cent from June to
August 2002 (compared with a 2.9 per cent increase in 2001 during
the same period).
- Juvenile nuisance increased by only 0.1 per cent from June to
August 2002 (compared with a 13.2 per cent increase in 2001 during
the same period).
Cash at hand
A partnership in Hackney, north east London, is advertising for
bids for a slice of £470,000 for providers of school holiday
activities under the Positive Activities for Young People scheme.
The money has come from the borough council, the New Opportunities
Fund, Connexions London East, the Children’s Fund and
Hackney’s privatised education provider the Learning Trust.
Local voluntary sector groups will be eligible for the largest
share of the money, but some will be saved for targeted programmes
and services to be run by statutory sector organisations. Small
groups and even individuals have also been invited to apply for
sums up to £500 for day trips and equipment.