Exclusive: Special Report on the youth green paper

Exclusive: Special report on the youth green paper

Young people could become “consumers” rather than
recipients of services under proposals outlined in a draft of the
Youth Green Paper leaked exclusively to Community Care,
writes Maria Ahmed.

The draft of Youth Matters, which is due to be published
shortly, also sets out a new statutory duty on councils to provide
positive activities for young people.

With themes that strongly echo Every Child Matters and
the adult green paper alongside key Labour messages of
“rights and responsibilities” and citizenship, the
draft document pledges to give young people:

• A “real say” in decisions and a strong sense
of “ownership”

• A choice of safe places to go and “enjoyable and
productive” things to do

• Advice and guidance to make the best of the choices they

• The extra support – and sometimes challenge –
they need

• The chance to develop into fulfilled and active

Service reforms

“We need to reconfigure services for teenagers
in line with the principles of Every Child Matters – so that
they start from the needs and aspirations of teenagers

Building on the proposals of Every Child Matters, the draft
proposes that the local authority, working through children’s
trusts, should have lead responsibility and accountability for
youth policy.

The draft proposes devolving responsibility for a number of
existing services and programmes to local authorities, together
with the resources to go with them, and states the key service
affected by the reforms would be Connexions.

The draft says:

“In the light of wider Every Child Matters and 14-19
reforms, it makes sense to transfer commissioning responsibility
for Connexion’s partnerships’ existing responsibilities
to children’s trusts. In the case of Connexions universal
responsibilities, there may be further devolution of commissioning
responsibility to schools.

“It will nevertheless be important to manage the
transition to these arrangements in a way that allows
high-performing Connexions services to continue to make a
contribution to improving outcomes for young people

Putting spending power in the hands of young

“We must go further than just consulting with
teenagers and their parents – important though that is. We
must put power and resources in their hands and we must think
innovatively how to do so.”

The draft proposes piloting a “youth opportunity
card” providing access and discounts to services for all
young people.

The cards, which could be used like debit cards, would be funded
by “activity accounts” into which central government,
local authorities and parents could pay money that could be then
spent by young people on sport, clubs and other positive

The draft also proposes that central government would expect to
provide (an unspecified) amount per month into the accounts of
disadvantaged 13-16 year-olds.

The draft says: “Putting spending power in the hands of
young people will not only help overcome cost as a barrier to
participation, but will empower them as consumers. The government
believes that putting funding into the hands of young people is the
best way of ensuring that the activities that are provided meet
their needs.

“In addition to central government subsidies, we would
therefore hope to see a shift in local authority funding for
activities from the supply side to the demand side through young
people’s activities accounts.”

New statutory duty to provide positive

“Evidence shows that young people who are not
involved in activities are disproportionately likely to experience
disadvantage in other ways.”

Local authorities could be required by law to secure the
provision of positive activities for young people, according to the

It sets out national standards for councils that would cover a
range of activities for young people including:

• Two hours a week of purposeful, supported

• At least two hours a week of sport or other physical

• Making a contribution to communities by volunteering

• A wide range of other recreational, cultural, sporting and
enriching experiences

• A range of safe and enjoyable places to go to

Local Entitlements

“The Local Entitlement will be a highly
visible statement for young people of what they should expect in
terms of activities and places to go in their local

Councils would also be required to publish a Local Entitlement,
a statement of opportunities for young people in their local

The draft says this would contain details of how the opportunity
card scheme would operate and the level of subsidy a young person
might receive to support their participation in activities.

The LE would also contain a clear statement of parents’
and young people’s responsibilities to pay for activities
whenever they can, and how young people can get involved to shape

“Provision is strongest where we take the best
from the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary
The draft states that guidance for national standards should
include the presumption that the provision of services should be
“contestable” and young people and parents given a
voice in what services are offered.

It says: “We would expect a specific focus on involving
young people from different cultural backgrounds, different ethnic
and faith communities, different neighbourhoods, those with
disabilities and those without, and those facing disadvantage, to
ensure that service provision reflects the needs of the diverse
communities in the area.”

“We would expect children’s trusts to analyse local
services and, taking into full account of the make up of the local
population, commission new provision or services to fill locally
identified gaps.”

Young people at risk

“Despite tremendous progress in improving
services for young people at risk, too many young people continue
to fall through gaps in service provision.”

The draft acknowledges that there is not enough emphasis on
prevention and on supporting young people before their problems
escalate. It says: “This matters particularly if we want to
do more to stop young people who are at risk of getting involved in
crime and anti-social behaviour from actually doing so.”

The draft proposes to “reform and simplify” the
current system to ensure young people at risk receive an integrated
package of support which meets their needs “from someone they
know and trust” by:

• Putting children’s trusts in charge of developing
a more integrated and efficient support service for teenagers

• Placing responsibility with children’s trusts for the
local delivery of the Public Service Agreement targets on young
people in education, training or employment (with shared
accountability with schools), teenage pregnancy and drugs and also
contributing to reducing youth crime

• Merging a range of existing government programme which
currently focus on specific issues, rather than tackling the needs
of young people in a holistic way

• Ensuring that every young person who needs targeted
services has a lead professional to take care of their

• Establishing front-line youth support teams focussed on

• Giving children’s trusts the resources, authority
and incentives to deliver a more integrated and efficient

• Clarifying the role of schools – and of the new
school collaboratives in particular – within the reformed

Information, advice and guidance

“We know that many young people prefer to get
information, advice and guidance from people who know them, their
circumstances and their strengths and

The draft proposes a new entitlement for all young people to
access good quality information, advice and guidance through:

• Access to online learning prospectus for post-14

• Access to skilled advisor by phone or web chat 18 hours a
day, 365 days a year

The draft says this would be supported by a transfer of primary
responsibility for commissioning IAG for young people from
Connexions to children’s trusts.

It says that local authorities would receive directly the money
spent on universal services by Connexions, and suggests that in the
longer term children’s trusts would agree “how and
when” to delegate IAG responsibilities to schools and
colleges .

No new money is set out in the draft, but
“additional” government resources to support young
people’s activity accounts could be on offer “subject
to piloting.”

The draft proposes to support the reforms by simplifying funding
available for services by devolving a range of existing central
government grants currently supporting young people to
children’s trusts.

What next?

After being promised since last autumn, the Youth Green Paper is
expected to be published shortly in its final form.

The draft leaked to Community Care, from June, suggests
that the proposed reforms would be completed by 2008, but states
any changes would be piloted extensively before being introduced
nationally. It says this would be particularly important in
relation to workforce issues, funding changes and to the proposed
opportunity card.

Decisions on the way forward will be decided by consultation
with local authorities, schools, colleges, the private and
voluntary sectors and parents and teenagers themselves.

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