Investment in youth services reaps patchy rewards, admits minister

The extra cash the government has given to local authority youth
services has had little effect in some areas, children’s minister
Margaret Hodge said last week.

“Different youth services approach the work of engaging young
people very differently,” she said.

“In some localities the youth service reaches only 10 per cent of
young people, while in others 60 per cent access the service.”

Hodge was addressing a seminar organised by the Institute for
Public Policy Research in advance of the youth green paper’s

She said the government’s target of reaching at least 25 per cent
of young people was “a real challenge” for some authorities.

Youth services need to be relevant to young people, she added,
emphasising that they needed more than a place to “hang out”. Those
who attended places “without focus or organisation” were more
likely to have poor educational outcomes, offend, and end up as
adult smokers, the conference was told.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of children’s charity 4Children,
said the transformation of early years services over the past 10
years, including the introduction of Sure Start, showed what could
be done with “a universal vision, a clear commitment and investment
to match”.

She predicted that, for the kind of youth services desired,
£2bn in “transformational funding” would be needed over

Longfield added that there needed to be change in local
authorities. She cited a study in which 40 per cent of councils
said they lacked cohesion on policies for youth services. The same
proportion said they found different agencies’ philosophies
“confusing” and wanted leadership.

Nearly one-third said they were competing with other agencies for
staff and funding for youth services while a similar share admitted
that youth work staff were not consulting early years staff.

Howard Williamson, senior research fellow at Cardiff University and
a former youth worker, said: “We need to ask who we are asking to
do this very difficult work, with often very difficult, disengaged
youngsters. It’s like having a learner driver take on winding, icy
mountain roads.”

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