Radical approach needed to address alarming decline in youth services – says National Assembly

Published 15/12/2016   |   Last Updated 14/12/2016

​A radical approach is needed to address an alarming downward trend in the amount and diversity of youth services in Wales, according to a National Assembly committee.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee believes that the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies AM, is facing a considerable challenge to deliver his ambitious commitment of a universal, open access, youth work provision through the medium of both English and Welsh.

Significant reductions in funding over recent years have had a severe impact on youth work provision. According to Welsh Government’s own statistics, the total amount of budgeted expenditure by local authorities on youth services, including funding through the Revenue Support Grant, has reduced by almost 25% over the last 4 years.

Numbers of young people taking part in local authority run youth services are reducing year on year and the number of youth work staff has significantly declined, with local authorities reporting the loss of 148 full time equivalent staff across the statutory sector in 2015-16. This constitutes a reduction of almost 20% in staffing capacity in one year alone.

The outlook for the voluntary sector is no more optimistic, with the Council for Wales Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS) reporting that 30% of its member organisations do not anticipate being able to continue to exist beyond the next financial year.

During the inquiry, stakeholders from the statutory and voluntary sectors identified the following key problems –

  • There is a lack of strategic direction and leadership from Welsh Government;
  • The sector and young people are not sufficiently involved in developing policies; and
  • There needs to be better collaboration between the statutory and voluntary sectors to make the most of scarce resource.

The Committee believes that urgent and radical action needs to be taken to address these issues. For that reason, the Committee believes that Welsh Government should move to a national model for youth services, encompassing both the statutory and voluntary youth sectors. A national model would enable better collaboration; reduce duplication across the statutory and voluntary sectors; raise the status and profile of youth services; and drive workforce development.

“Youth work provision is an essential service for young people. Making sure that all young people in Wales have are able to access these services is crucial to support them to reach their full potential,” said Lynne Neagle AM, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee.

“Our inquiry shows an alarming downward trend in the number and diversity of services across the country.

“We understand that funding cuts are not exclusive to the youth work sector, but there is an argument that spending money on providing universal support to young people early can help prevent the potential of knock-on effects later in life.

“We believe that the Welsh Government is facing a considerable challenge to deliver a universal, open access, youth work provision through the medium of both English and Welsh.

“To meet this challenge, Welsh Government needs to introduce a national model for youth work, to bring together the statutory and voluntary sectors. The staff who are delivering services on the ground are passionate and creative. They’re also realistic about the financial circumstances that youth services face, but they want to make the most of the resources that are available. A national model should make sure that the most is made of the money in the system to fund these services and that young people in Wales can continue to have access to these very important services.

“A national model is the best option if Welsh Government is serious about delivering a service that is accessible to all young people in Wales.”

There are ten recommendations in the Committee’s report, including:

  • The Minister should review the National Strategy and refresh the statutory guidance in consultation with stakeholders and young people. A detailed action plan for implementation, including timescales, must be developed alongside a new strategy.
  • There should be a clear and meaningful route for young people to be equal partners in developing youth services in Wales. This should be developed by the Minister, stakeholders and young people.

Read the report here