Last night I led an Adjournment Debate on the role youth services play in tackling youth violence.
Over the summer, the Youth Violence Commission published its indicative findings which included a number of recommendations on reforming youth services. Youth workers do such important work, but the sector is currently underfunded and unregulated. Youth services have suffered real terms cuts of 54% since 2011 and more than 600 youth centres closed between 2012 and 2016. Earlier this year, the Youth Violence Commission conducted a nationwide survey of young people to find out more about how violence manifests in their lives. We heard from over 2000 young people from schools, Pupil Referral Units, Youth Offender Institutes and youth clubs across the country. In answer to the question “if there was one thing you could change that you think would make young people safer, what would it be?”, the most popular response was the provision of more youth centres, sports clubs or other activities in their local areas. Yet these services are disappearing faster than ever from their communities.
The Youth Violence Commission has called for the establishment of a National Youth Policy Framework, which would make the provision of youth work a statutory duty for local authorities and central government. The framework would set nationally recognised, professional standards for youth workers and centres. Every adult working with young people should be professionally trained, especially in recognising signs of trauma. Reform is also desperately needed in current funding arrangements. In the voluntary sector, large organisations are far more likely to get funding than smaller, local charities – even though the latter might be doing excellent work on the ground.
I raised these recommendations with the Minister, as well as my concerns surrounding funding for youth services.
You can watch the full debate below and read the rest of our recommendations here: www.yvcommission.com/interim-report