Youth Policy - from the Cabinet Office to DCMS, a commentary from Ambition

August 3, 2016

There has been longstanding debate locally and nationally on where youth services should sit: education, social care, leisure. Wherever it sits, we need clarity on a positive agenda for young people and the priorities we set for services that support our young people most.

At the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) the Sports Strategy recognised the vital role of local authorities and voluntary sector partners. In keeping the brief within Civil Society under the same Minister we will work with DCMS to improve consistency of services across the UK, ensuring young people can access quality services no matter where they live.

There remain great challenges. Statistics and commentary suggest a bleak future for both statutory and Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) youth services in England. However, working alongside members, both VCS and Statutory, we have observed where there is good leadership there is emerging innovative approaches to sustaining youth work methodologies in a number of local young people services.

National Citizen Service

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is a major national programme with £1bn committed expenditure, with social action and volunteering at its heart. This brings together key elements for Civil Society that sit well within DCMS.

We are eager for the cross department support for NCS to continue. Volunteering, social action and recreation sit comfortably with DCMS and we would like to see DCMS enhance post NCS experiences for young people through providers utilising opportunities to support DCMS priorities around citizen participation.

Youth Work and Education

Successful cross government youth policy should reflect and recognise the unique characteristics of adolescence. This needs to recognise the role of youth work and those skilled in support of adolescents, in particular supporting those in crisis and early intervention for vulnerable young people.

Education would seem to be a more natural home, and where the Department for Education includes character, wellbeing, life skills, employability, school-partnerships, social care, children and families. However, there is strength to working across departments that includes physical and mental health, culture, justice and other priorities for young people. Whether that is driven from the Cabinet Office or DCMS, it will need that cross departmental support.

Potential Benefits of DCMS’ Role

DCMS’ role in promoting participation for all citizens in heritage, sport and arts, which in turn benefits health, wellbeing and social mobility is critical to healthy adolescent development.

Therefore, the potential benefits of working even more collaboratively with Heritage Lottery, the Arts Council and Sport England could support a more cohesive approach to supporting young people through a youth work approach, particularly in areas such as volunteering, social action and recreation.

By Barry Williams, Ambition’s Director of Strategy & Membership

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