Comment and Opinion
In this section, we are offering members of our network an opportunity to give their comment and opinion on issues facing the voluntary and community youth sector.
(This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2012 edition of our Exchange magazine)
The policy landscape
NCVYS members must keep their eye on all manner of Government policies. With large scale reforms in education, health and welfare young people and youth organisations have multi-faceted and complex changes to get their heads around. The Government's youth policy statement Positive for Youth does give an overarching vision for young people, but with all Government departments having relevance for different groups of young people the list of reforms affecting NCVYS members is almost endless.
A few key areas of policy do stand out - in particular early intervention, youth unemployment and localism. Early intervention has been much in the news recently, as contention over the use of the Early Intervention Grant (EIG) has spread. NCVYS welcomes increased investment in early years, but we're worried that this may be at the expense of much needed services for young people, with many of the grants rolled into the EIG previously ring-fenced for youth services. With the EIG's own ring-fence ending in 2013 and increased financial pressure locally, future resource allocation to young people's services remains uncertain.
With figures showing over a million unemployed young people becoming the norm and a growing number without a job for over a year (around 270,000) or two years (100,000) it's widely recognised that youth unemployment is a serious problem reflected across the world. It is especially concerning for those groups of young people (for example based on their geography, ethnicity or education level) at particular risk from being not in education, employment or training. The Raising of the Participation Age along with the Government's championing of Apprenticeships, as well as its Work Programme (and the associated Youth Contract) may offer some solutions, but many NCVYS members are working with young people who need much support to fulfil their potential.
The localism agenda provides opportunities for our members to facilitate community involvement in local decision-making, but brings a challenging and an increasingly competitive environment, especially for those organisations that work across local boundaries. The new Social Value Act should enable commissioning to become more aligned with what is in the best interest of local communities and those organisations that serve them, but with the pressures on local finances, only the most considered and participatory of approaches are likely to lead to improved outcomes for young people.
Beyond these major drivers in the policy arena, there are also significant changes taking place in the youth justice system. These intersect with the new structures that are being introduced to the cross-cutting Troubled Families agenda and the new Police and Crime Commissioners. The Home Office is also responsible for the changes in safeguarding legislation which, among other things, will replace the Criminal Records Bureau with the Disclosure and Barring Service.
As well as our weekly policy bulletin and monthly sector-news bulletin, our recent briefings (detailed in the next column) include information on a number of these areas, as well as a list of the ministers most relevant to our members. Forthcoming briefings on areas including housing and unemployment will help members to continue make sense of this most complex of policy environments.
(This article first appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of our Exchange magazine)
Creating a sporting habit for life: A new youth sport strategy
In January Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt launched Creating a sporting habit for life: A new youth sport strategy. The £1 billion, five-year youth and community sport strategy aims to inspire a generation to get involved in sport – a promise made in the 2012 Games bid. A Parliamentary Question revealed that this was mostly financed by the National Lottery, with £200 million from the Treasury.
The strategy will be delivered by Sport England. It includes £100 million for tackling the drop-off in sports participation that can happen when young people leave school - Sport England recently found that the number of 16-19 year olds playing sport three times a week has fallen from 930,400 in 07/08 to 825,900 in 10/11. Some of this will be invested in new school-based sports clubs, which will be distinct from PE – expert coaches will run sessions and the clubs will be linked to existing local community sports clubs. £50 million will be invested in sport provision at further education colleges and universities.
The strategy includes funding to open up school sport facilities to the local community – Sport England has recently published guidance to help schools to do this. With 76% of sports halls, 73% of artificial grass pitches, 29% of swimming pools and 52% of grass pitches in England in the education sector it is vital that these facilities are used during evenings and weekends.
The strategy will invest over £50m between now and 2017 in sports clubs and voluntary and community groups. It also asks sports governing bodies, where young people are the main participants, to spend around 60% of their funding on activities that promote sport as a habit for life amongst young people. It aims to deliver: consistent growth in sports participation in the 14 - 25 age range; high quality talent development; and a growth in participation by people who have disabilities.
There is plenty of evidence that sport can be a fantastic tool to engage and work with young people in the most deprived communities – New Philanthropy Capital found that sport can often be the 'hook' needed to engage young people in wider programmes of education and support. However, a report from the Centre for Social Justice suggests that Britain’s poorest young people stand to gain little from the massive investment in the 2012 Games. It says an overhaul of the sports system is needed to connect sports with the most vulnerable young people – with links with voluntary and community organisations vital. An Ofsted survey of school sports found that schools should build strong partnerships with local voluntary and community groups in order to engage young people in sport – especially those at risk of adopting unhealthy lifestyles.
Further challenges to engaging all young people in sport remain: a recent report from the Women's Sports and Fitness Foundation found that more than half of secondary school girls are put off sport by their experiences of school PE, with only 12% of 14-year-old girls are achieving the recommended levels of exercise. The report suggests that girls don’t like the activities on offer and that schools should make PE a trial rather than a pleasure. Further research from NSPCC has found that issues surrounding body image and emotional abuse are “commonplace” in organised sport.
The Sport and Recreation Alliance has identified that in order for the 150,000 sports clubs across the UK to fully benefit their communities there needs to be a reduction in red tape and bureaucracy. Their most recent report Red Card to Red Tape: One Year On is an update on the progress that has been made in the campaign. This includes details of proposals for a refreshed Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) scheme, a new code on insurance liability and changes to the vetting and barring framework through the Protection of Freedoms (further details will be available when guidance is produced). Yet many barriers are still in place – there are still challenges to be overcome to ensure that investment in sport delivers for all young people.
The riots and the evidence
Much of the reaction to August's riots has focussed on young people. It is therefore important to try to get some perspective and details on the level of involvement of young people in the riots. Those of us who work to support young people must not be afraid to examine the evidence coming to light.
This piece, from our Policy Officer, Dom Weinberg, explores the evidence available so far on those involved in the riots and makes some observations about what this might mean for those working to support young people. Read more
The challenges facing young people and youth organisations
Five chief executives of youth organisations met over a meal to consider the growing challenges young people face as well as the pressures of running youth organisations. We thought we’d try to write up our thoughts in this short post
Youth work, far too often, is posed as a way to prevent crime, self-harm, violence, teenage pregnancy, poor health. And whilst it is important for all these reasons, for us that’s the wrong discussion. Why? Three reasons to start… Read more