They need to be involved

So here it is. After a long wait Youth Matters is
published and out for consultation, bringing an opportunity to
affect ways in which services engage with and support young

The paper seeks to add to the progress made by Every Child
with key pledges to deliver to all young people,
including those at risk. This message to young people who receive
little support, that they too should share the aspirations of their
peers, is the way the document should be pitched. The emphasis is
firmly on active engagement with young people as participants
capable of responsible decisions rather than victims in need of
protection or demons in need of correction.

Youth Matters provides all organisations with a framework
to tackle the challenges young people face. It is upon this
framework that all agencies will begin to build a new way of
working – there will not be change overnight.

So what are we to make of the paper’s content and proposals?

Some will bemoan the paper as the end of the line for Connexions.
In truth, the service always struggled with its remit of reaching
all young people. As a brand it was strong; as a focused service it
was weak. Connexions was imposed on services when it should have
been integrated into them to enhance the package of support young
people received.

By giving children’s trusts overall responsibility for young
people’s services we should see accountability and direction for
all agencies working within local authorities. The early indicators
on children’s trusts suggest they can be very effective. About 86
per cent of pathfinder informants believed that they would improve
services with the same resources and 94 per cent expected fewer
gaps between services provided by different agencies. Government
will need to monitor the findings from these pathfinders carefully
and learn from them; and local authorities must receive funding and
support to manage the transition.

What is needed, and what an integrated youth support service should
provide, is the establishment of multi-disciplinary assessment
teams. These will be geared up to support all young people no
matter what the initial criteria, so a young person, parent, youth
worker, neighbour or police officer will know who to contact as
soon as warning lights flash. Schools, social services and health
centres have never been able to do this, although Connexions

Assessment teams will be highly accessible; they will succeed by
being quick to react to a young person’s needs and by being able to
give them the emotional support they need, without which
relationships cannot be built and further intensive and specialised
support becomes impossible to deliver.

Assessment teams will not, however, be the core providers of
specialist support; rather they will “assess and access” by
commissioning services such as youth offending teams, leaving care
services, child and adolescent mental health services or others. In
order to have a coherent approach the management of these
assessment teams and specialist teams must be integrated. This must
be a priority for local authority strategic planning.

By bringing this multi-disciplinary ethos to the sector we should
begin to plug the gaps through which too many young people have
fallen; and assessment teams should remove the pitfalls posed by
over-stringent eligibility criteria focused on single problems
rather than whole people. Finally, it is hoped that these teams
will see an end to the confusion and duplication young people
currently face of having to attend appointment after appointment to
repeat their story time and again.

This then begins the cutting loose of labels that young people end
up wearing for life because offenders only get support through one
door, care leavers through another and truants another. It’s time
we opened a single gateway marked “support” through which all young
people pass.

The green paper may well give us the framework to make this a
reality – except in one vital area. Before young people are
anywhere near being able to deal with education, training or the
other problems they are experiencing they must be living in
suitable accommodation, properly supported to maintain their

Yet accommodation sees the green paper at its weakest and we expect
to see major improvements following consultation.

Another area that needs careful thought is the location of support
services. Schools have been presented as one option. For young
people under the age of 14 this may make sense. For those older
young people already alienated from school and probably most in
need of support we need to find alternative and innovative ways of
reaching them. The teams could be real or online or web-based, but
the focus and work of children’s trusts must extend well beyond

This balance highlights the difficulties in the provision of a
universal youth offer. Where services are located is vital in
making an offer universal; if it’s through schools then it excludes
too many young people who have long given up on anything to be
found inside the school gates. And it’s not enough to open the
doors and welcome all young people who arrive. Services must be
geared up to support those who are hardest to engage, which means
employing highly trained staff who are given the time to provide
intensive, one-to-one support. This goes for any activity – sports,
culture or volunteering.

Young people themselves must be central in the provision of these
services, wherever they are located. The theme of young people’s
involvement that runs through Youth Matters is extremely
welcome. Giving young people a real voice in the design and
delivery of services results in agencies being better equipped to
meet their users’ needs, young people feel better about themselves
as they are achieving things and learning skills for later in

The opportunity card pilot scheme is a good example of how an idea
benefits from input from young people. Connexions tried this
incentive-based initiative, but young people from our services say
it didn’t deliver what they needed. Rainer helped set up a scheme
in partnership with the Metropolitan Police called Karrot, which
rewards good attendance and behaviour among school pupils in the
London Borough of Southwark. Young people have been involved in the
design and delivery from the start and for that reason “own” the
scheme, value it and seek to enhance it.

The lesson of Karrot is a valuable one for Youth Matters:
to empower young people, encourage participation and provide them
with the expert support they want and need they must be given a
real sense of ownership of any offer.

The green paper belongs to young people; and our under-supported
young people will be making their voices heard. Consultation now
demands we build upon the framework of Youth Matters to ensure we
not only improve their outcomes but the outcomes of future

Joyce Moseley is chief executive of Rainer, a
national charity working with 15,000 under-supported young people
aged 10-25. She was a member of the Youth Justice Board from 1998
to 2004 and director of social services at the London Borough of
Hackney from 1991 to 1997.

Training and learning
The author has provided questions about this article to
guide discussion in teams. These can be viewed at
and individuals’ learning from the discussion can be registered on
a free, password-protected training log held on the site. This is a
service from Community Care for all GSCC-registered

The recommendations laid out in the youth green paper
centre on how services should work together to engage with
under-supported young people in particular. They state a need for
highly-accessible multi-disciplinary assessment teams and more
streamlined and co-ordinated commissioning of young people’s
services. This article also raises concerns over the lack of
proposals around accommodation in the paper, concluding that young
people must be involved throughout the consultation.

Contact the author
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