Youth services are in need of an urgent overhaul and require their own cabinet minister, a cross-party report by MPs has said.
An all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for youth affairs report, which was welcomed by Unite, said tackling mental health and knife crime and providing future employment for young people needs leadership “from the top”.
A Department for Education minister is be needed to achieve this, as well as a reinvigorated national body to train and support volunteers, professionals and trainees in the youth services sector.
The APPG, which held hearings, received written evidence and visited youth initiatives and services during a five month period last year as part of its inquiries, said budget cuts to the sector were “short sighted” and need to be reserved.
Increased funding is particularly needed for young people who at risk of crime, being taken into care or falling outside the mental healthcare safety net, the cross-party group’s report said.
The APPG noted that cuts to youth services had contributed to the increase in knife crime and highlighted the Prime Minister’s comments that it is an issue “we cannot arrest ourselves out of”.
APPG chair and Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle said, “The loss of funding and lack of political leadership means that youth work services have been eroded.
“Long-term support for all young people sacrificed for short-term interventions for a few.
“The government’s own civil society strategy recognises ‘the transformational impact that youth services and trained youth workers can have’.
“It must act now. We need a coherent approach and investment to secure and sustain youth work.”
Unite national officer for community and youth workers, Siobhan Endean, thanked the APPG for the contribution that it has made in highlighting the importance of youth work to the lives of young people.
“This timely report will be discussed at the national conference of Unite’s community, youth and playwork conference taking place in Lancaster this weekend,” she said.
“A more in-depth response will be fed back to the chair of the APPG, Lloyd Russell-Moyle after members have had a chance to work through the report and take a more detailed look at its recommendations.”
Endean added, “Unite policy is clear. We need a statutory youth service, with dedicated ring fenced funding, provided by a core of JNC qualified youth workers from the statutory and voluntary sector, working with trained and supported volunteers with one full time nationally qualified youth worker for every 400 young people.
“I hope that this report moves us a step closer to achieving this aim.”