While children have taken centre stage under successive Labour governments, many youth organisations and youth groups argue that teenagers have been neglected. The lack of focus on this group at a national level has led to some councils seeing them as a low priority too. It has also meant that only small amounts of funding have been provided to local authorities for youth services and youth work.
Critics say policies around young people have tended to focus on youth offending and tackling the small minority whose behaviour brings them into contact with the criminal justice system. There certainly seems to have been a plethora of initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour and knife crime among young people in recent years, largely in response to frenzied media coverage of the issues.
Despite this, governments in England, Wales and Scotland have each published over the past few years long-term strategies for the development of youth services and youth work professional practices.
Published in July 2007, the 10-year strategy – Aiming High for Young People – identifies priorities for the development of services and funding in the area.
The Scottish executive’s Moving Forward strategy also published in 2007 is an ambitious plan for youth work to lead the way in improving the lives of young people in Scotland.
Young People, Youth Work and Youth Services was published by the Welsh Assembly Government in March 2007. It sets out its vision for the development of services for those aged 11-25 and the youth work profession.
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Every Child Matters
The government’s plans for tackling anti-social behaviour and crime committed by young people were outlined in early 2008 in the Youth Taskforce Action Plan. It was drawn up following extensive consultation with the sector and young people and was applauded for outlining ways to tackle the root causes of problems rather than the just the symptoms.
Find Your Talent
Is a £25m government initiative to develop a range of cultural experiences for five hours a week both in and out of school. Ten areas across the country are to pilot this approach. They are: Bolton Council, The Creative Foundation in Kent, Customs House in Tyneside, Hampshire Council, Leeds Children’s Services, Leicestershire Council, Liverpool regional partnership, North Somerset, Telford & Wrekin Council and Tower Hamlets.
Key Ofsted report giving an overview of the sector
In February 2007 an Ofsted report looking at youth services and youth work, in England as a whole based on inspections of 33 areas carried out in 2005-6, painted a depressing picture. It found that while there had been an upturn there was still a need for considerable improvement in one in five services. Other findings of the report were:
- There was a stark contrast between the strongest and weakest youth services.
- Youth services were inadequate in a significant minority of local authorities – seven out of the 33.
- Fewer than half of the youth services inspected were judged to be good or better.
- A significant number of local authorities were failing to ensure the proper integration of youth services into the new children’s services structure brought in under the Children Act 2004.
- Youth services were not being given sufficient priority by some local authorities.
- There was a lack of leadership on youth services in councils. Inspectors said that strong leadership was a key factor in bringing about improvements
In 2002 children’s charity 4Children launched their Make Space campaign which aims to persuade the government to provide better youth services. The charity says that the campaign is necessary due to young people often only coming to ministers’ and society’s attention when they get antisocial behaviour orders. It also wants more government funding for the group arguing that the current rate equates to an average of only 17 pence per young person per day.
As a part of the campaign 4Children are also carrying out a 12 month inquiry on young people to feed into the Treasury’s policy review. In March 2007 they published the interim findings of the inquiry which were derived from over 7,000 young people’s views.
Since then it has reported on a number of other issues affecting young people and youth work.
Department for Education and Skills youth work report
Published in December 2004, this report is an analysis of the positive impact that youth work can and does have on those young people that engage with these services.
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