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Youth Service

Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

The Government will consult very shortly on revised statutory guidance on local authorities’ duty to secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, a sufficient offer of services for young people. It will propose that a sufficient local offer is one that results in positive feedback from young people on the adequacy and quality of local provision, and positive trends in data indicative of local young people’s well-being and personal and social development.

The Minister will be interested to know that late last year, I welcomed to Westminster a group of lads from the Muslim Community Organisation in Nottingham. They told me about their project and why it is important to them. They told me that they felt the Government did not like young people, because they had cut youth services, and they said that their project was under threat. Will the Minister tell Junaid, Awais, Hussam, Umar and their friends why cuts to youth services have been among the biggest in his Department?

I trust that the hon. Lady, wanting to give a fair representation of what the Government are doing, was very speedy in sending her constituents a copy of “Positive for Youth”, which was published just before Christmas. It is one of the most comprehensive documents bigging up young people produced by any Government ever, and she should be proud to disseminate it among her constituents, as I am mine.

I applaud the Minister on “Positive for Youth”, and last week I was at two voluntary sector youth clubs, Pembroke House and New Image, where there was fantastic talent waiting to be released into the adult community. Will he ensure that every youth club in England, statutory or non-statutory, has all the knowledge that it needs about apprenticeships, training, education and the national citizen service, so that every opportunity can be known by every youngster in every youth club in the country?

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. I want a mixed provision of youth services up and down the country, whether in brand spanking new buildings such as the 63 myplace centres, a great investment by this Government, or in well established youth clubs, schools or other buildings. I want young people to have full knowledge about the availability of all those schemes—not just youth services but training opportunities, apprenticeships, the national citizen service and everything that they can do in our communities. “Positive for Youth” is a gateway for young people in this country to see that the Government value them. Our whole society should value them, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that they contribute to society in the future.

Speaking at the National Youth Agency conference last month, the Minister said:

“I know that many people are concerned that youth services have faced disproportionate cuts as councils look to tighten their belts…And, I’ll be honest, I’m concerned too…there is no excuse to neglect youth services, or to treat them as an easy area to make savings.”

However, as a recent parliamentary answer to me showed, many local authorities are making cuts of 30%, 40%, 50% or in some cases 70%, far in excess of the general reduction in local authority spending. What steps is he taking to put his fine words into practice?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for repeating my words, because they are absolutely right. That is why we issued that document—to send out a very clear message—and why we are revising the guidance, which we are consulting on in the next few weeks. She, like every local authority in the country and youth groups, will have the opportunity to have their say on what their local youth services should offer. That is all about young people having a voice and being able to gauge whether they are being treated seriously within their local authorities. This Government are giving them a voice that was not heard under the previous Labour Government.