Interview: What future for youth services in an age of austerity

As a youth worker one of the organisations I have had a long term relationship with is the National Youth Agency, always an important resource and advocate for youth work and young people. They will be hosting two challenging youth work focused fringes at conference, so I took the opportunity to interview Fiona Blacke, their dynamic and outspoken CEO.

Q: How have the cuts impacted on youth work across the country?

A: Young people need access to youth workers and high quality youth work, and that offer continues to be made, whether via professionals, part timers or volunteers. With the government taking less of an intervention role, Local Authorities are having to provide leadership.  Hard decisions are being made and in the midst of that challenge some creative solutions are emerging. In some areas the whole service has been outsourced with councils supporting the work through market making and building capacity in communities. In other areas they have outsourced their  provision and kept services like early intervention in-house, there are lots of different models. There are also social enterprises emerging. However, this is not necessary sustainable, and there are some places where it is really bleak.

Q: What has the NYA’s response been?

A: Well, we are developing an Institute for Youth Work – led by our Education Training Standards Committee which represents the whole sector. it will give youth workers a voice and greater credibility.

Through the Local Government association we offer councils a package of tailored support to remodel services. Our fear is that where local authorities have gone for slash and burn, with no recognition of the protective nature of youth work, there will be a long-term impact. We are in the process of developing tools to capture the impact.

Q: So what would your advice to Local Authorities be? 

A: Councillors know that communities value youth work- they need to look sensitively and creatively at how they can continue to work in partnership to make a good local offer

Q: And what are the risks if we fail to continue to provide youth services?

A: My fear is that we risk creating a lost generation, witnessing a growing disparity between those whose families can support them and those who can’t. There is a generation who are untouched by any services and we need to do something about that or we will pay for it as a society. Last year’s riots show that, whilst there was an element of criminality and opportunism,some of it was because those young people felt abandoned by society. I think this year with the wet summer, we got off quite lightly.

Q: So for those who are interested in hearing more about the work of NYA, what will you be doing at conference?

We have an invitation only breakfast roundtable on Monday 7.45am in the Youth Zone, “Hard Times: Greater Expectations – Transforming Local Services for Young People “. NYA is already working with a third of local authorities in England and this roundtable will explore the role and leadership of elected members (which NYA sees as crucial) with myself, Cllr David Belotti, Dan Rogerson MP and Simon Wright MP. Looking at how thinking differently can help we will be discussing approaches that work. Places are limited but if you would like to attend please contact Jonathan Hopkins [email protected]

And Monday evening our open fringe “A Good Education : Paying a Premium for Young People to Succeed” exploring the role and contribution of  youth work in schools and family intervention – for example the troubled families initiative;  with myself, Christine Blowers NUT, David Ward MP, Baroness Sal Brinton, and Linda Jack FPC. This will be in the Youth Zone at 18.15pm.

Q: Finally if you had one message for LDV readers, what would it be?

A: We only have one future investment worth making and it’s our young people, so we have to be their champions.

Many organisations working with and on behalf of young people have fringes at conference – details of the Youth Zone on page 38 of the conference directory with details about speakers in the diary. For more information contact organiser [email protected]

* Linda Jack is a member of the party's Diversity Engagement Group

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/30277 for Twitter and emails.
Advert

2 Comments

  • Linda Jack is also Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Bedfordshire.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but as soon as the Lib Dems / Conservatives came to power, didn’t you cut the central grant to local authorities that funded the Connexions Service? I’m not aware that it has been replaced, and the parlous state of employment for young people is evidence.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRoland 30th Oct - 1:58pm
    Picking up on Paul K's comment "I suspect many people who say they voted Lib Dem in 2010 and now describe themselves as Greens were...
  • User AvatarRobin Bennett 30th Oct - 1:51pm
    Comments are of a relatively high standard, though some are TLDR (too long, didn't read) - one commenter in particular. Tony Greaves' views (on what...
  • User AvatarPsi 30th Oct - 1:38pm
    By way of an example of how the comments are less-bad than other sites. I often batter out a post messing up the spelling or...
  • User AvatarJack 30th Oct - 1:35pm
    @Matthew: there is no contradiction. I compromise with my girlfriend all the time; this does not mean we do things that either of us are...
  • User AvatarStephen Campbell 30th Oct - 1:30pm
    One more thing I've noticed: there are several Lib Dem members who engage in nit-picking, pedantry and outright rudeness towards non-members and ex-LD voters who...
  • User AvatarSimon Oliver 30th Oct - 1:27pm
    "We have done more for the green agenda than any UK Government ever" true. Just a bit like saying we've jumped higher than any elephant...