1) A Promise from the Nation: Youth Covenant
There has been an implicit understanding (a ‘promise’) that each generation will leave the next generation better off. This may longer hold true. There must be a renewed commitment from government and collective impact across services.
“A promise from the nation for young people to be safe and secure in the modern world, and treated fairly; supported in the present and ambitious for the future:
- Skilled and equipped to learn and earn
- Positive health and wellbeing
- Active members of their communities
- Happy and confident in their future”
This provides a common language and shared outcomes for individuals and whole communities, acting also as a guide to funders, commissioners and services in support of positive outcomes for young people. It is underpinned by the values and contribution of youth work. Where youth work provides a safe place, providing and developing a social network and friendships, with a trusted adult of a qualified youth worker and trained volunteers (who know what is needed).
It requires a commitment to and the inclusion of young people in decision-making, to shape policies and inform services that reflect the experiences and ambitions of young people. A Minister and Cabinet Committee would have responsibility in Government. An annual report would be published by a Cabinet Minister and presented to Parliament on the topics, actions and impact relevant to the Youth Covenant. This can be mirrored locally for elected Mayors and Local Authorities, for a local context and involvement of young people.
See also reporting requirements under UN Rights of the Child
2) Local Choices: Youth Partnerships
Coordinating provision across an area is difficult, particularly where services change frequently. Local authorities have statutory responsibilities to make sure, as far as possible, that there is sufficient provision of youth work as “educational and recreational leisure-time activities for young people”. However, this is relatively light-touch and is currently being consulted on by government. NYA is seeking to strengthen statutory guidance and resources to ensure a sufficient level of youth work and services.
For local authorities to have the ability to oversee and coordinate, with the support of all levels of local government, is invaluable. In order to ensure the safety of young people attending services, maximise uptake and spot gaps in provision where needs aren’t being met, Local Youth Partnerships should be put in place and supported. This will bring together the public, private, voluntary and community sector to make the most effective use of all available funding and assets. The local authority has the statutory responsibility and needs to be resourced to secure access to sufficient youth work provision and will maintain a key role in supporting and setting the direction of local youth services, including young people in the location, design and running of activities.
3) Sure-Footed: A Youth Premium
The landscape for youth work has changed dramatically in recent years, at the same time we are seeing a rise in the complex challenges faced by young people and families. Many problems in adolescence can have a long-lasting impact. For example, half of all people with lifetime mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14. There are too many young people who do not necessarily have the family or social networks to support them and need somebody to help them. Likewise there are parents and carers who need support in raising teenagers, and young people living within troubled families. Families need support through adolescence just as previous government initiatives, such as Sure Start, support families through early years. Youth workers play an essential bridging role between families and services, building inclusive networks contributing to the wider development of services, multi-agency-working and partnerships with community groups.
A Youth Premium can bridge the gap in opportunities by helping more disadvantaged young people to access high quality youth work, leisure activities and learning experiences from which they are otherwise excluded. This would seek to complement other measures, for example including qualified youth workers for specialist support of Troubled Families. Administered by local authorities this would complement targeted services and draw down funding from existing resources, such as early intervention funding, youth offending and, for 17 and 18 year olds, act as an equivalent to the Pupil Premium, for youth work youth work opportunities designed to help vulnerable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get a better start in life.
4) Seen AND Heard: Youth Voice and Social Action
Today, young people’s voices are as important as ever in the face of major societal, economic and environmental challenges. Youth work can unlock young people’s potential, helping them develop voice, influence and their place in society; harnessing their skills to meet the challenges of future-jobs, an ageing population, housing and social care, and climate change. Working with young people whose agency is a key part of the solution to remove the fear of crime and the stigma of mental ill-health, and for the renewal of social networks to end youth violence and loneliness. Currently 4 in 10 young people participate in meaningful social action. Those from less affluent communities are much less likely to take part than their wealthier peers.
Many organisations use participation, co-production and social action throughout their programmes and core work, including Hear By Rights national participation standards. Many more need to do so, whether young people are students, employees, service users or customers. In particular, for young people to be treated fairly and have their views respected, there needs to be a greater level of political and democratic engagement on issues that affect young people now and that will define their future. Over one million young people take part and vote in the Make Your Mark ballot for UK Youth Parliament each year. Young people have led the way too on the Climate Challenge. We need inspire more young people to get involved, including lowering the voting age to 16 and broader political education as an essential part of life skills for a vibrant democracy.
5) Two Per School (2PS): Youth Work Guarantee
There is a critical need to invest in youth centres, clubs and safe spaces for young people to go in their local community. Yet to run that provision and extend the reach to all young people – from detached youth work to facilitating youth councils – requires skilled youth workers. Just as local authorities are accountable to secure sufficient school places in their area, they need to be resourced to ensure access to quality youth services. A national census of current provision, statutory and voluntary, is required to establish a clear baseline of youth work provision and to put in place core funding for local youth services and the involvement of young people in decision-making.
There is a need for an injection of funding for capital projects, but we also recognise it is hardest to attract consistent funding for youth work to take place beyond short-term programmes and the bidding cycle that frustrates the system.NYA will publish our national guidance on a minimum level of youth services and core funding to protect those services across the country. At least two JNC qualified youth workers and a team of youth support workers and trained volunteers are required for each secondary school catchment area. This provides the basis for guaranteed access to quality youth work, facilities, staffing ratios, training and employment to open up career pathways and volunteering opportunities across a diverse range of providers for an eco-system of community-based youth work to flourish.