Youth opportunity card fails to find favour

Serious concerns exist over the plans in the youth green paper for an opportunity card for young people.

Debates at the national social services conference in Birmingham this week revealed widespread concerns over the concept of an entitlement and discount card that could be linked to good and bad behaviour.

Chief executive of the Youth Justice Board Ellie Roy said that, while the cards looked like a really positive idea on paper, in practice they would throw up lots of issues around levels of entitlement and whether and how they should be linked to incentives.

Roy pointed out that, under a scheme based on incentives and rewards, the young people likely to have their cards removed or suspended for bad behaviour were paradoxically also likely to be the ones most in need of help accessing positive activities.

“Opportunity cards are going to be hugely problematic,” she warned.

There were also doubts about the benefits for young people living in rural areas of the cards offering discounts.

Izzi Seccombe, a councillor at Warwickshire’s County Council, told the conference: “I represent a rural area and cannot see how a youth card is going to help the children there. It is fine if you have got something you can go out and buy with it, but they haven’t.”

Hampshire’s children’s services director John Coughlin said that feedback on Youth Matters from councils around the country was largely negative in relation to the opportunity card proposals, and that this would be reflected in the official joint response to the paper from the Association of Directors of Social Services and the Local Government Association.

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