All good things come to those who wait. For many young people,
this is the reality of the much-delayed youth green paper finally
published at the end of July – providing what it promises is
Education secretary Ruth Kelly says the aim of Youth
Matters is to “make sure that all young people are given the
best chance in life to succeed”. To that end, the paper is an
instant hit, with its focus on encouraging young people to get
involved in new activities and re-engage with their communities.
But hidden away at the back of the document is the truth about the
funding to back these ambitions: there is no new money available –
at least not before April 2008.
On top of this, what money there is for services for young people
will be pooled together and entrusted to local authorities in
single unprotected – and therefore raidable – pots.
The fact that named individuals in the form of the new children’s
services directors have been given ultimate responsibility for
delivering councils’ duty to secure positive activities for all
young people ought to inspire confidence. But a similar duty on
councils to provide a youth service was clearly set out in
Transforming Youth Work in 2002 and – according to many in
the field – largely ignored.
With the many competing demands on the time and budgets of the
children’s services directors there are understandable fears that
youth services could yet again miss out. In particular, with one of
the green paper’s four key challenges being tied to politically
important targets on teenage pregnancy, drug misuse, young people
not in education, employment or training, and youth crime, there is
also a danger that spending on services for young people could end
up being skewed towards the few and away from the many.
To ensure that every youth matters – as well as every
child – local authorities will have to make sure that money meant
for youth services is not diverted elsewhere.