Thursday 22 March 2012
[John Robertson in the Chair]
Services for Young People
[Relevant documents: Third Report from the Education Committee, HC 744, the Committee’s Sixth Report, HC 1501, and the Government response, HC 1736.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Tim Loughton.)
It is a pleasure to lead the debate under your august chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I am delighted to see that four fellow members of the Education Committee have made it to this Thursday afternoon debate. The hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) is making a ticking movement with her hand, and she is right to imply that we deserve a medal of honour.
The debate is about our report, “Services for young people”. I intend to set out its key conclusions and the policy developments since its publication, and to comment on questions that the Government have still not answered. It is a pleasure to see the Minister present. I am sure that, given his personal commitment, those questions that have not yet been answered will receive answers this afternoon and that we will treasure them when they are duly delivered.
The Committee conducted its inquiry over six months during 2010-11. Our aim was to consider the relationship between universal and targeted services; who accesses services and what they want from them; the roles of the voluntary, statutory and private sectors; and the impact of funding cuts and the scope for commissioning services in future.
The Committee received 158 pieces of written evidence. We heard from young people, both in person and via an online forum, which we ran for several months with the Student Room and through which we received more than 200 responses. Young people were represented on the panels on many occasions when we took oral evidence—I say that for the benefit of anyone who may have ignorantly thought that young people were not involved fully and consistently throughout the process.
We published the report on 15 June 2011 and it was well received by the sector. The Young Men’s Christian Association said that,
“it focuses in on many of the key issues and problems that are being faced by youth service providers across the country.”
Children & Young People Now said that
“at long last there is an attempt from Westminster to address the challenge of serving young people in these austere times”,
and called on the Government to rise to that challenge. On receipt of the Government’s response, we decided to publish a further report commenting on it, because it did not tackle several issues satisfactorily.
Since then, the Government’s cross-departmental strategy on young people, Positive for Youth, was published in December 2011. The Government make a number of welcome commitments and take up some of the Committee’s recommendations. In other areas, however, they do not go far enough. I will return to the merits of that strategy document in a moment, but first I want to set out the Committee’s key conclusions.
Our inquiry found that young people spend more than 80% of their time outside formal education, yet local authorities spend 55 times more on formal education than on services for young people outside the school day. Acknowledging that inequality, we set out to understand which services are most effective at supporting and developing young people outside school.
Witnesses with different perspectives agreed on three key points: first, that public spending cuts had disproportionately affected youth services; secondly, that there was great potential for youth services to help transform young people’s lives; and thirdly, that services had long been poor at proving their impact and, thus, at making their case to Government—a weakness that is all the more pertinent in times of austerity.
On funding, the Committee concluded that the picture looked bleak and was likely to worsen. Funding had been doubly hit, with the removal of ring fences from central Government grants and the 11% overall reduction to the total value of youth service funds that go to local authorities and are redirected into the early intervention grant. We calculated that local authority spending on youth services in 2010-11 equated to only £77.28 per young person a year, which is about 21p a day.
Two surveys in 2011 showed that more than £100 million would be cut from local youth service budgets by March 2012, with average cuts of 28% and up to 100% in some areas. Even the Department for Education agreed, concluding that
“the scale of budget reductions and the pace at which decisions are being made”
“limiting the scope for… innovation and fundamental reform”.
The Committee was alarmed enough by the apparent extent of the cuts to urge the Government to consider using their powers to direct local authorities to commission adequate services for young people, which they have a statutory duty to do.
On the impact of services, we received strong personal stories from many young people about their value. One young person wrote on an online forum that
“when young people come to the centre they know they aren’t going to be judged and they can be who they want to be, for some of them it gives a break from stresses outside”,
while another stated that
“without my youth workers I would now be in a lot of trouble with education, work and drugs. But with their help I have been able to sort myself out and get onto the right path and stop the bad things I was doing over a year ago”.
We received a lot of anecdotal evidence about the efficacy of youth services and their individual impact, but, as I have said, collectively, services struggled to show the impact of their work in an easily defensible and statistically strong way.
The importance of youth services, coupled with the limited public resources available for them, makes it more vital that effective services are identified and funded. That is in line with the work of the hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen) on early intervention. The most important thing when spending limited public resources is to find those interventions that will make the greatest difference. Early intervention does not need to take place only during pre-school years; it could equally take place during the teenage years by getting involved with people who might be at risk and intervening early to support more positive behaviours.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate on the Committee’s report. Does he agree that it would be helpful if we moved away from the confusion surrounding the definition of early intervention? Some people take “early” to mean years 0 to 3, while others take it to mean early in the life cycle of an actual problem. Both things are, of course, important, but they are often conflated.
My hon. Friend is right. The hon. Member for Nottingham North is also right to not only emphasise the importance of early intervention, but to want to build an evidence base to justify additional public funding. If investing another £100 million into the lives of young people means getting a payback and saving many more pounds later, even the person with the driest heart in the Treasury will see the benefits. I am delighted—this is a tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s work—that the Government have agreed to fund an early intervention foundation that will do precisely that. I hope that, as that work develops, it will look not only at the early years but, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) has rightly said, at early intervention throughout a young person’s childhood.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for being so generous in giving way early in his speech. He may intend to address this issue later, but will he comment on some of the difficulties involved in measuring the effects of different programmes? We discussed and received evidence about those problems in Committee. The prisoner scheme in Peterborough is a perfect, text-book example of payment by results, but the proposition for a youth club is completely different because of the different client group, control group, time period and the different influences on people’s lives.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. As he has rightly said, we considered the issue. In principle, I do not think that there is any division between the parties on payment by results. The question is: who is paid by results? Are we really going to try and collect data on a once-a-week youth club in a particularly deprived area which has a brilliant community leader who builds on the history in that area, where parents themselves attended clubs locally and there is great support, and it really brings the community together? Will the expense be completely disproportionate to the effort of collecting it? The answer is probably yes. The danger of identifying something at a micro level where we can easily pay someone to deliver results is that they will then always have to be able to provide that at that micro level before we support the whole principle, and that could limit its impact.
Payment by results is probably better introduced at a higher level. For example, Birmingham city council could have a partnership with Goldman Sachs for the money, Serco for certain other skills, and seek to bring in additional private money to support and strengthen the focus of the services it provides. That extra money could be brought in to support those services on an evidence base that makes the council—and the hard-hearted business people—believe that they can deliver those improved outcomes for young people. As a Government and as a society, we need to be more effective in ensuring that the money to deliver improved outcomes for young people, which we vote for in this place, actually helps to deliver them. It is important to get the mechanics right.
I promise to be quiet after this brief intervention. Does my hon. Friend agree that what comes up time and again in talking about how to identify a good parenting programme or a good programme for teenagers, is that we know it when we see it? For payment by results, the trick is to leverage the knowing it when we see it so that we can identify the individuals or organisations who are good, and then work out who else to invest money in for the future of our young people.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As long as there is accountability and people are driven by delivering the outcomes at the end, they should have discretion over how they use their budget. There could be investment in the Friday evening group I mentioned if there was confidence that it was helping to meet our overall goals for delivering change in the local community.
May I help my hon. Friend on this subject? Social impact bonds and payment by results are an important subject. I will give him two examples. The City Year London scheme is being piloted in many London schools, with the help of the Mayor’s Fund and Private Equity Foundation money. It can show, very clearly, a return on capital in terms of the kids catching up. The Private Equity Foundation has been funding literacy schemes, in partnership with local authorities and other public providers, that clearly show a benefit for those children in social outcomes, which are so important, and can be linked back to a return on capital. There are great possibilities for the youth service, too.
I agree with the Minister; that is exciting and interesting. My note of caution is that there must be many positive services, including youth services, which would struggle to collect the evidence, dissociated from all the other impacts and influences on young people’s lives, to prove that they were delivering. Perhaps that is why, in many cases, we might want to have the payment by results managed and triggered at a higher level, with those people making a discretionary decision. When they see great work—when they see it they can recognise it—they will realise that it is offering value for money. They could take things that did not have an individual evidence base, yet would none the less continue to be commissioned. A dangerous and perhaps self-interested parallel with my previous life as a publisher is an advertiser who places an advert for £1,000 and immediately receives £2,000 back in directly attributable profit on sales. He may spend the rest of his career thinking that advertising is just about getting money back immediately without any other elements to it, which would be a mistake. Life is more complicated than that, and the danger of finding such things as the work in Peterborough, or, possibly, the initiatives mentioned by the Minister, is that we are looking for everything to be able to justify itself on a payments by results basis. Perhaps councils, or other bodies at a higher level, should commission without having to expect that from each initiative in their portfolio.
While we are on this interesting issue, may I encourage the hon. Gentleman in his caution? Although the Minister made a good point about how one can hold an institution to account for services for which it is responsible, is it not the case that, for the youth service, good youth work in deprived communities is good at—we need it to be good at—helping reduce offending behaviour? Of course, offending behaviour and its impact has nothing to do with the youth service, but it will be measured by the police or the youth offending team in the local authority. Often, the youth service will be targeting those most at risk of offending behaviour anyway. Is it not the case, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, that this is very complex? It would be quite dangerous to encourage an organisation like an individual youth club to be held too much to account for an issue such as offending behaviour.
I think I agree with the hon. Lady. One of the criticisms we have made of the sector is the need, collectively, to make a better case. When Ministers—we have one with us today, and the hon. Lady was one previously—go to the people in the Treasury, they need a strong case, especially when it is, “Give me money today and I will give you savings tomorrow.” There is a certain natural and understandable scepticism in the Treasury, and a strong evidence base is needed from which to make the point.
At the risk of holding a third-party debate through the Chair of the Select Committee, may I say that the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) makes an interesting point? In the borough next to her own, Hammersmith and Fulham has pooled budgets between the youth service and the youth justice system, and there is a clear imperative to incentivise local youth services to work with legal services, to keep young people out of youth offender institutions and the youth justice system. If we are to hold local authorities to account for doing good stuff, positive stuff, proactive stuff and preventive stuff with young people, we want to penalise them if they do not do so—the result is that children end up in young offenders institutions—but reward them when they keep young people away from offending behaviour.
The Minister’s point was well made. We need to get everybody—in my example, from Birmingham city council downwards—focused on outcomes. The danger—this happens in all Governments; it is not peculiar to the previous one—is that, despite talking about rewarding success and penalising failure, the tendency is to reward failure. For those who deliver services, the less they succeed, the more money they get and the bigger the budget that comes to them. To break out of that and ensure that everyone is focused on outcomes and that the bureaucracies that administer these things see it as in their interests to change the lives of the young people for whom they are responsible, would be a good thing, and I wish the Minister luck in delivering it.
Returning to the difficulty of services demonstrating their impact, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services told us that although
“anecdotal evidence and young people’s stories”—
“what is really difficult is some sort of set of statistics whereby we could show the total amount of investment and the total amount of return”.
That conclusion was borne out in independent evaluations, including by Ofsted.
Although the impact of youth work encounters with young people can certainly be hard to quantify, the Committee said that local authorities needed some indicators on which to commission services. The Committee recommended that the Government commission NCVYS to develop an outcomes framework that could be used across the country. However, we said that it should be not just a question of counting the number of young people using a service or the number of encounters—in some ways, failure would be rewarded again by such an approach—but a measure of young people’s social and personal development and that they should be involved in its design.
In addition to those three earlier points, the national citizen service—the Government’s new volunteering programme for 16-year-olds—was a key area that witnesses felt strongly about. We addressed that service in our report, and although we liked the idea of a community volunteering project and a rite of passage for young people and found the scheme’s aims entirely laudable, as did almost all our witnesses, we questioned whether the Government could justify its expense.
We discovered that, based on the cost per head of the 2011 pilot, the NCS would cost £355 million each year to provide a universal offer of a national citizen service to 16-year-olds, assuming just a 50% take-up. Even allowing for economies of scale, we felt that there was a risk that the costs of the NCS—a six-week voluntary summer service for 16-year-olds—could outstrip the entire annual spending by local authorities on youth services, which totalled £350 million in 2009-10. Instead, we recommended that the core idea of the national citizen service be retained, including its laudable aims, but that it be significantly amended to become a form of accreditation for existing programmes that could prove that they met the Government’s aims of social mixing and personal and social development, with the component parts of NCS, such as a residential experience and a social action task.
The Government could have said, but did not—I often thought that if I were a Minister I would have said it, although the Minister did not—that the NCS was just being piloted and that the aim of the pilots was to help to identify ways to deliver more. The Government said that they wanted to secure and leverage in more funding and to ensure that they did not scale up the prices that the initial pilot suggested.
We received our initial response from the Government both directly—orally— and in writing from the Minister, who seemed less than entirely thrilled. We felt that the Government, in their initial response to our report, failed to address fully a number of issues, so we wrote a further report, calling on Ministers to clarify their intentions on how the Government intended to measure outcomes from youth services, which is pretty important, given everything that we have been talking about so far, and the grounds on which they would judge whether a local authority had made sufficient provision, because there is a statutory duty on local authorities.
Although the Government said that they were prepared to intervene, they would not tell us on what grounds they would do so, other than in the most general terms. The Government would not describe what services would, or would not, look like if they were likely to trigger intervention, thus leading to the likelihood that councils could continue to make cuts to youth services that the Government described as disproportionate.
We also asked the Government to clarify the total public spending on youth services before the early intervention grant. The Government said that they did not accept our figure—£350 million—so we asked them to tell us what their figure was. As they did not accept our figure, we thought that a reasonable request. We also asked them to tell us how they planned to fund the NCS after the two pilot years. What have the Government said in response to our two reports and, subsequently, in their Positive for Youth strategy?
The aspirations of Positive for Youth have been well received in the sector. The National Children’s Bureau said:
“we are pleased with Positive for Youth’s holistic approach to giving young people more opportunities and better support”.
The National Youth Agency and the NCVYS both welcomed the Government’s publication of a comprehensive strategy, drawn up in consultation with the sector and produced in less than two years after the creation of the Government. However, many youth organisations are concerned that the strategy is vague about how its aspirations will be implemented, so reflecting a worry of the Committee that was mentioned in its report.
Catch22, which works with particularly deprived youngsters, commented that the levers for change in the Government’s policy “lacked bite”. That view was echoed by the Children’s Commissioner, Dr Maggie Atkinson, who said:
“without action this strategy will amount to no more than words on a page”.
The NYA qualified its support for Positive for Youth, saying:
“no vision or policy is worth anything if it isn’t followed by clear and decisive action”.
The chief executive of YMCA England, Ian Green, went further:
“the Government’s vision will come to nothing if those responsible for the delivery of services on the ground are not prepared to implement it, and the Positive for Youth statement is very light on how it intends to address this fact”.
I was reflecting on those words even as I read them, but their implications are clear. If there is no firm action plan, the criticism—to spell it out for my hon. Friend in case he, too, is missing the blindingly obvious—is that if the strategy produced by the Government after such a long period of preparation does not spell out exactly what they are going to do and how they will hold to account those responsible for delivering services, there is every danger that we will have fine words and no real delivery. That might be a statement of the obvious, but there is a serious risk, with a strategy that is light on content, in respect of whether there is confidence that it will deliver on the ground.
Positive for Youth has the right focus on fostering young people’s aspirations and on their personal and social development. It is good to hear the Government praise the potential of young people and extol the qualities and achievements of the vast majority, especially in light of the negativity towards young people generated by last summer’s riots. The Government and the Minister are right to emphasise the positive. If all we ever measure are provisions averting negative behaviour by young people, we suggest that their natural tendency is to behave negatively. In fact, the Minister wants to emphasise—the Government are right about this—that most young people are positive members of our society and that we should support and celebrate their positive behaviour.
Mr Robertson, I wonder whether it is appropriate—I know it is not normally done—to welcome the young people who are listening to the debate, because it is to be appreciated. The message that the hon. Gentleman has just given about the majority of young people being positive and aspirational for themselves will be heard in this Chamber as well as outside it.
Yes. Having served as a Minister, the hon. Lady will know that we can be as positive as we like for as long as we like in as many speeches as we like, but as soon as we say something negative, that will appear in the newspaper. That is the nature of being in power and the nature of news.
It is right to call the paper “Positive for Youth” and immediately emphasise the positive and recognise that we regard young people not as a problem, but as an immense, positive force for good in our society. That is important and we cannot say it too often, although it will never appear in any form of press thereafter. But we have to live with that.
By the Committee Chair’s own token, does he therefore think that it was helpful, in trying to create a positive account of young people, that about three quarters of the press release accompanying his report—it is a good report and I will comment on it—about activities for young people, aged between 13 and 25, beyond the school or college day concentrated purely on the national citizen service, which deals only with young people aged 16?
Mr Robertson will recognise, even if the Minister does not, that it is relevant to mention that a proposal from the highest levels of the Government might, if scaled up to a 50% take-up, lead to spending greater than the entirety of spending on young people outside the classroom, as stated in Government figures. It is in the nature of issuing a press release that 29 points are not included if one wants it to become part of the press story. Although the Minister was upset that a project with such laudable aims was the subject of criticism, he has not been a Minister that long and will doubtless become thicker skinned and will get used to the fact that a more independent Select Committee system than we have had before and a more assertive legislature will be prepared to criticise even the most favoured schemes of the most powerful in the land, because it is our job to do so. If we emphasised that in our press releases, rather than all the other issues, I am sorry that it caused such upset and sorry that the hurt to the Minister continues to this day.
On a positive note, I welcome the commitment to publish annually national measures relating to young people’s positive outcomes, with an audit at the end of 2012 of overall progress towards creating a society that is more positive for youth. That is as a result of the work carried out by the Minister, which I am happy to celebrate and emphasise, even if it does not occupy more than three quarters of my speech. I am also pleased to see the Government emphasis on involving young people in developing policy and monitoring progress—for instance, the pledge of £850,000 to the British Youth Council for 2011 to 2013, to set up a new national scrutiny group of representative young people to advise Ministers on how policies affect young people and their families.
I pay tribute to the Minister for regularly meeting young people in care, to ensure that his understanding of the care system is not only theoretical but a personal, direct, linked understanding from young people affected by the policies that he and the rest of us make in Parliament. That, too, is a good thing—as well as having young people in the Public Gallery listening to me going on at such length today.
Positive for Youth does not fully address three outstanding areas, which the Committee was concerned about. First, we welcome the Government’s commitment to retain the statutory duty on councils to secure young people’s access to sufficient activities and services, including their duty to take account of young people’s views in decisions about such activities, which was a key recommendation of our report. We also welcome the commitment to intervene in response to
“well-founded concerns about long-standing failure to improve outcomes and services for young people”—
again, a key Committee recommendation.
Our second report, however, called on the Government to specify their minimum expectation for adequate provision of youth services. We asked how communities could know the grounds on which Ministers might be expected to intervene if they did not know what “adequate” looked like. Positive for Youth and the draft statutory guidance currently out for consultation decline to do that, instead stating that a local authority’s efforts to secure a sufficient local offer will be judged by whether it has considered guidance and by its relative performance in improving outcomes for young people. Although we agree that outcomes for young people, rather than inputs, are the right thing to measure, some consideration of what services, if any, are being provided locally must surely form part of the assessment. The duty calls on local authorities to secure
“so far as is reasonably practicable, a local offer”.
I am interested to hear why that caveat was considered necessary and how well received the draft guidance has been in the consultation responses so far.
Secondly, as I have already mentioned, we highlighted confusion about public spending on youth services that the Government have yet adequately to address. The Government continue to dismiss our estimate for public spending on youth services of £350 million a year, which was based on their own figures. When asked repeatedly for their own estimate, they did not provide one, instead challenging the spending figures that the Government have been using for years in answering questions on youth services spending.
I would be grateful to the Minister if he clarified today whether the Government intend to stop using the accounting line on youth service spend and, if so, what alternative instructions his Department has given to local authorities about collecting and reporting data on youth service provision. For instance, if reporting is to change under the early intervention grant, perhaps he can clarify how the Government intend to measure national spend on youth services in future under that grant.
Thirdly, the Committee felt that the Government remained vague about how the national citizen service was to be funded after the 2011 and 2012 pilots. Their response to our report remained ambiguous on that point, stating that they had
“no plans to cease funding for National Citizen Service beyond the pilot years”,
“the Government does not expect to fund the full cost of delivering the programme”
in the long term. Perhaps the Minister could update us on the Government’s latest thinking with regard to what proportion they do expect to fund beyond 2012.
There is much to be welcomed in the Positive for Youth strategy, but significant anxiety clearly remains in the sector about the hard reality of funding on the ground locally. Even organisations that are signed up to the Government’s approach of restructuring services to deliver them for less are worried about the extent of cuts. The NCVYS, the Government’s newly appointed strategic partner, said in response to the consultation on Positive for Youth that
“the papers made little reference of how services would be funded to deliver support to young people. This is especially concerning given the implicit assumption that voluntary and community organisations will be expected to fill in gaps left by retreating services.”
Regular reports of the closures of local youth services bear out that fear.
If we are to provide adequately for the 80% of young people’s time spent outside school, we must retain the best youth services—in particular, those whose effectiveness has the confidence of local commissioners. The Government must be prepared to intervene when those are threatened, and they need to clarify precisely the grounds on which they will do so.
I am grateful that we are having the debate today and giving a bit more thought to youth services in the UK. I am glad to see young people in the Public Gallery, although I was watching them during the last speech and I am slightly concerned that they might not be nodding—I will looking for their reaction.
I am acutely aware that in this place we often talk about young people, but we do not often talk to them. An important feature of our report was the fact that we heard a great deal from young people about the effect of youth services on them.
I spent nearly a decade in the voluntary sector before I came into the House of Commons, and I am a firm believer in the value of youth work and services, having seen for myself the dramatic transformation possible in many young people’s lives. In the Committee, we were glad to have the opportunity to give deeper thought to the value, structure and funding of youth work, and to how outcomes are measured. It has long struck me that the strength of the service is also a weakness—by its very nature, it is flexible, dynamic, youth led and localised, but that can create some of the problems discussed by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) in his introductory speech. When we began to hear evidence, we had to consider what we meant by youth work, and it soon struck us that there was no definition of youth work or of the youth service, and no job description for youth workers. That is a strength, but it also creates problems.
Inevitably and unfortunately, we spent a great deal of time and energy during our inquiry looking at the effect of cuts, in particular to local authority budgets, and what that has meant for youth services. It emerged that the nature, scale and impact of the cuts have been dramatic and, in some areas, extremely stark. The 10.9% cut to the value of funds into the early intervention grant and the removal of ring-fencing for youth provision seem to have had dramatic effect. Local authorities understandably seem to be prioritising statutory and high-risk services such as child protection. It is easy to understand why, faced with such dramatic cuts, but it is extremely worrying when we consider the hon. Gentleman’s comments on early intervention and the need to prioritise particular groups of young people.
Concern and criticism were aired in evidence to our inquiry, from local authorities and charities. The chief executive of NCVYS—the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services—the former Children’s Commissioner, talked about what the cuts will mean for young people in the long term, if they fall through the net. What will that mean for their future life chances? The former commissioner, Al Aynsley-Green, called it “the end of hope”. I hope that that is not the case, but when the union Unite made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to a number of local authorities, it found that, on average, funding to youth services was down 12% in only one year. The reality of that for young people is stark indeed.
When the Minister gave evidence to the Select Committee, he said that although the Government would be prepared to intervene if local authorities were failing in their statutory duty to provide services, what local authorities spent their money on was largely a matter for them. Ministers, however, need to acknowledge the serious reality of what is happening out there throughout the country as a consequence of the huge cuts being made to local authority budgets. My own local authority, Wigan, has prioritised youth services. In the past three years—between 2008 and 2011—investment in youth work has gone up 4%, but the question is how long that high spend can be sustained, given that the local authority has suffered a £66 million cut and that many services are, therefore, inevitably disappearing, in particular because the cuts were front-loaded, giving us little time to prepare, plan or find alternatives or efficiencies.
Ministers told us that youth services should rely on different sources of funding and should not be overly reliant on the state. In reality, as the Committee’s report and the evidence we were given show, that was already the case. The vast majority of organisations we took evidence from got their funding from a variety of trusts, grants and charitable and public sources, as well as from statutory sources; indeed, one organisation—the Scout Association—was 100% non-funded by the state.
In my constituency, there is a good example of the partnership working that Ministers said they wanted to encourage. Wigan Youth Zone, which is opening in 2013, will provide a huge range of facilities for young people, including climbing walls, sports halls, cinemas, cafes, music rooms and training facilities. The focus is on helping young people to improve not only their softer skills, such as confidence and resilience, but the harder skills that they will need to find what work there is and do it.
The organisation will be 10% funded by the young people themselves, who will pay 50p a time to visit, although there will be additional help for those for whom that is too much. The organisation’s running costs will also be 40% funded by the local authority and 50% funded by the private sector and local fundraising initiatives, which the whole town has got behind. The board is chaired by Martin Ainscough, a local business man with a strong commitment to, and passion for, young people. He was inspired to contribute a significant proportion of the capital costs after visiting the Bolton lads and girls club and coming away feeling strongly that we should have similar provision in Wigan.
There are many such examples around the country, but there is a significant issue about the loss of statutory funding. In many places, alternative sources of funding are simply not available, because they are already being utilised. I strongly disagree with the Minister that spending £77 of statutory funding per young person is a large slug of public money, as he told us when he gave evidence to the Committee. This is really important, considering how much time young people spend outside the classroom and how few resources are spent on activities for young people outside the classroom.
It will be particularly hard for smaller charities to find alternative sources of funding. When I worked for the Children’s Society, we, like many other larger charities, had huge teams of fundraisers, whose job it was to look for sources of funding and to navigate complex regulations and processes to ensure that our funding applications were successful. Smaller charities will not be able to compete, and the Committee heard about many that had only one paid employee, who was trying to keep the whole thing going and whose real passion was working with young people, not filling in forms. It is not enough to say that organisations need to look for alternative sources of funding; they need help and, in particular, signposting from the Government if they are to do that.
There are positives from having a more big-society approach to youth services. I was speaking to a youth worker from Hull the other day, and he said that he and his colleagues were working more closely with the voluntary sector, in a way he felt they should have been years ago. We should also not send out too negative a message about small charities. They can sometimes be vulnerable, and they are threatened, but they are resilient, and they have an ability to innovate and find ways through. One tends to overstate how desperate things will be, but small charities are good at levering in additional support.
I take the point that those youth workers should have been working closely with the voluntary sector, but the point I am making is that such things are already happening up and down the country. People are innovative and they are seeking partnerships. In my constituency, people know each other, they work together and they have built relationships over a long period. I am saying not that those charities are not resourceful, energetic and passionate, but that we are stacking the odds against them, and we should give them more support.
Multiple funding streams can be a bureaucratic nightmare, even for large organisations. I say that as someone who, over 10 years in the voluntary sector, suffered the extreme pain of having to report regularly on such things and to demonstrate impacts and outcomes to funders. I filled in the forms, went to the meetings and prioritised that work, because it is important for funders to see what they are getting for their money, but what about smaller organisations with perhaps one member of staff? The Committee came across an organisation with one paid member of staff and 27 funders, which is not unusual, in my experience. What does that mean? It means 27 regular reports.
Such an arrangement also means that people never get the opportunity to catch their breath, because they constantly have to reinvent or repackage the service they offer. In my experience—I think it was shared by a lot of the organisations that gave evidence to us—funders are not keen to fund something that is not new; they generally want to fund something new, not the continuation of a service. As a result, charities are constantly repackaging and reinventing something they already know works. Removing statutory funding at an accelerated rate will therefore have a dramatic impact, which will be felt most by those organisations that are often closest to the ground and that are doing some dynamic and important work with young people.
In the light of all that, I very much welcome the national citizen service, but as an addition to existing youth services, not as an alternative. As we heard during our inquiry, youth services are a lifeline for some young people; they are a source of stability when there is no other source of stability. Many young people talked about the youth service or the youth club they accessed being a family or a home to them, and many had been accessing those services for years. I had a conversation with a young woman who had acted as a National Children’s Bureau mentor for a young man since he was nine years old—he is now 18. She said that, during all that time, she had been the only adult who had remained constant in his life. Everyone else—social workers, of whom there had been many, foster carers and parents—had come and gone, but she had been the one source of stability for that young man. We must not forget how important that is.
A girl called Chloe posted a comment on the inquiry site about her youth centre:
“It’s like a second home to some of us... I’ve been coming to this youth centre for two years now. I’d be lost without it”.
We heard that from so many young people. I am therefore concerned about the cost of the NCS—£37 million this year and £13 million the year before. It cannot be right to prioritise a six-week scheme for young people from different backgrounds, including more affluent ones, when youth services that are a lifeline to young people such as Chloe are disappearing up and down the country.
The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness said the Committee was concerned by the cost of NCS, given what it is delivering, and I would associate myself with those remarks. The Committee visited Germany and saw some excellent youth services, but the cost of those services per person for 12 months was the same as the cost of the NCS per person for six weeks. I cannot understand why there is such a huge disparity, and I urge Ministers to look at the issue.
I want to question the Government’s vision on youth services. Over the past few years—this predates the coalition’s coming to power—we have seen the gradual prioritisation of targeted services over open-access services. What I am about to say might sound a little counter-intuitive, given that I have just made a strong case for ensuring that we reach young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and that we prioritise them above all others, but, as I have seen for myself, and as the Committee heard in a lot of evidence, open-access services work with many of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, whom targeted services sometimes find it hard to get through their doors. They work precisely because there is no stigma around open-access services, and because a lot of young people who have been through various systems, including the care system and the criminal justice system, and who often have a deep distrust of services that label them and that are targeted at them, will go to open-access services when they will not go to targeted services. At a time when not enough funding is available, it concerns me that we will prioritise targeted services along with the NCS.
When young people from the backgrounds I described access open-access services, which do not necessarily have a label attached, staff can also identify the fact that those young people have problems, which goes back to the point about early intervention. The Committee heard strong evidence that such young people often go on a journey: they go to an open-access service, such as a youth club, and get talking to a member of staff. They build a relationship of trust, and it emerges that they have significant barriers to overcome. They are then referred to a targeted service and end up going full circle—coming back to the open-access service, having had the support they desperately needed. We need to be careful about prioritising targeted services, because the evidence that we heard shows that there is a need for open access and for targeted services that work.
The question of what works—the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness referred to it earlier—exercised the Committee. A witness to the inquiry described the measuring of outcomes as the Holy Grail, and I could not agree more. That can be difficult to do, and it is necessary to be incredibly careful, think about what is being measured and avoid setting up perverse incentives. With the increase in payment by results and targets under the previous Government, organisations cherry-picked the easiest cases and left the remainder, so resources were directed precisely where they were needed least. Often, the targets set for us in the voluntary sector, and for others, completely ignored the reality that many young people face.
In the youth justice system at the moment, for example, the Government are rolling out a system of payment by results, which is about trying to get young offenders into work as soon as they leave an institution. I applaud the focus on getting young people into structured work and giving them a reason to carry on, but the way those targets are set will be important. I worked at Centrepoint, the youth homelessness charity, for several years, and there were some young people for whom just getting out of bed and having breakfast every morning was a significant achievement that constituted real progress; it took months of work, support and encouragement from the staff. That is something we need to be careful about.
I am also quite concerned about measuring outcomes and the focus on payment by results. Constructing intelligent frameworks for what is measured and how that is done involves more than skill. When I worked for the Children’s Society, it constructed a well-being index, which took several years to complete, and while such frameworks can usefully be shared with other organisations—the Government have commissioned work on that, which I welcome—I also urge them to pay attention to the fact that it also takes time to collect and record information in a meaningful way. Many of the young people I worked with in the voluntary sector were sick and tired of being part of the system and of being asked questions, quizzed and grilled. It is important to find useful, meaningful, non-harmful ways to engage young people in the framework, and to get the right information from them, so that the process does not turn into a tick-box exercise.
We heard a lot of evidence that measuring soft outcomes was important, and I completely agree with that; confidence and resilience are examples. Often, causal links are too complicated. It is difficult to say, “This young person came to us and has gone on to commit crime. That is because we failed.” That would be to ignore every other thing going on in the young person’s life at the time. There are so many influences on young people, and it is difficult to measure the direct impact. I was encouraged by the focus on positives in the plan that the Government have produced. If outcome measures are constructed in a negative way, the focus on positives, which is so valuable to youth work, and which we should value and prize above all else, is lost.
Having read the Government’s plan for young people, I thought it was long on policy, which I welcomed, but short on vision. It did not seem to consider the future impact on young people of many of the things in question. The creation of the Department for Children, Schools and Families, instead of an education Department, was a significant step forward for children. It meant that, for once, all Departments had to work together to deliver for young people. Things were brought under one umbrella, with a strong Secretary of State who drove through improvements for young people. I saw that for myself, particularly in areas where children had traditionally been left outside the system. For example, refugee and migrant children came under the umbrella of the Children Act 1989 and the UN convention on the rights of the child for the first time as a direct consequence of the fact that the Department brought things together. If the Minister wants to consider the long-term future of young people and what the decisions we take will mean for them, he needs to look at youth work and immediate support and intervention, but he also needs to look closely at what his colleagues are doing in housing, pensions and care for the elderly—a host of things. Our failure, as a country, to tackle those things will affect young people for the rest of their lives.
A generation is growing up who are losing youth services and support, particularly for the most disadvantaged, but who also face the prospect of high unemployment, with a million young people out of work. They face depressed wages for the rest of their lives, and interrupted work patterns. They also face high debt if they manage to get through university, difficulty getting on the housing ladder and having to fund care for their elderly parents while paying hefty funds into their pension schemes and bringing up their children. The Minister needs to consider what he does for young people now, but needs also to look carefully at his colleagues’ failure to act. Otherwise, young people will feel the results for many years to come.
I apologise for arriving late for this debate [Interruption.] It was outrageous. We should always arrive on time, but I have a very good excuse: I was meeting a contingent of young people from Stroud high school in my constituency, who are involved in fundraising, and are doing a lot of thinking about the role of Oxfam. That, ironically, is a good example of the kind of thing that young people should be involved in. I applaud the girls from the high school for doing what they have got in mind. They have been raising a huge amount of money through cake stalls, footprint contests and so forth. They are doing so because they want to be part of the community and are endeavouring to become responsible individuals, and because they think carefully about the world beyond their habitat. That is fantastic, and their example and commitment to some extent underpin what I shall be saying in my brief remarks.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) who made a thoughtful exposition of the situation, coming from the huge experience she brings to the Education Committee. We all derive value from that, and it is great that so many members of the Committee are here. I think that half of us are present.
More than half; that is fantastic. We work well as a team and are very effective, coming up with some useful reports. I have voted against only one report so far, which was on the English baccalaureate. We had a lengthy process to discuss whether we should support the Government’s proposals, and I disagreed with the whole thrust of the report. I noted that although the evidence we had in support of its conclusions was persuasive, we nevertheless should not stop thinking beyond its remit.
I am grateful. I am not entirely sure whether I can describe that as a compliment to my position, but there is much more evidence out there that we should be mindful of. That is what I shall talk about. I referred to the E-bac report not because I wanted to ram home yet again the fact that the Government are absolutely right to introduce the E-bac—they know that, and most people are beginning to realise it—but because there is more to our thinking on youth services than is contained in our report.
My other more general point is that it is absolutely right that 80% or 90% of young people’s time is spent in activities other than schooling, but we must get our education system right. That must be the top priority, and public money must be allocated on the basis of priorities. I want to make it absolutely clear right now that my priority is to ensure that our children receive an education that will equip them to deal with the challenges facing them and the opportunities and lifestyles that they wish to pursue. That is a cornerstone of my contributions to the Education Committee.
A key theme of the evidence that the Committee received in our various meetings showed that the picture is extraordinarily mixed, and it was difficult to analyse outcomes, and to elicit clear messages. In broad terms, the range of providers, the complexity of provision, and the different priorities that many providers had, made it extraordinarily difficult to make a judgment about outcomes and processes. That must be properly understood in the context of expenditure levels and the way in which the Government have reacted to the challenge of the pressures on public expenditure.
My constituency has a huge number of youth providers, and not all of them would be recognised in the context of the Committee’s report. We must acknowledge and salute those organisations that provide a huge amount of good value for our young people, and which would not normally come within the remit of our discussion today. For example, the Door project in Stroud provides fantastic support for young people who have been let down by everyone, including in most cases their own parents. The project is supported powerfully by the local community, delivers outstanding outcomes, and is a strong and useful part of our community. It is a good example of the sort of things we need.
Nailsworth has a community workshop, which I visited not long ago, where young people can learn about crafts, and to be craftspeople. It is fantastic, and is growing up from our local community. Not far away in Nailsworth is a youth centre that is very well supported by the town mayor and many others. It has been the victim of cuts by Gloucestershire county council, but nevertheless continues to deliver fantastic services that are really worth having.
In Dursley, another key town in my constituency, the Lower King’s Hill management co-operative provides great opportunities for young people to do all sorts of things, including gardening and so on. It is also where I hold some of my surgeries, so I am connected with its work, and its aims and objectives. It is yet another example of the sort of structure that we should be supporting, but which might not be covered by our report.
With that degree of diversity, we have some great structures, and I have not even started talking about some of the others, such as Outreach, which provides support for young people in very difficult circumstances. The staff’s dedication to young people, and the opportunities that they gain because of the support, framework, comfort and succour that they receive is fantastic. I applaud that.
All the organisations that I have mentioned are well supported by local people in their local communities, because they recognise local needs and work extraordinarily hard to produce outcomes that are surprisingly easy to measure. As a Member of Parliament, I visit them all, and I see the outcomes and am impressed. What often worries me is the number of people who need those services, rather than the outcomes. We must not ignore the fact that many good things are happening in our constituencies. Mine is a good example, but I think all hon. Members can say the same.
I agree broadly with my hon. Friend, but in my constituency in rural Somerset, one difficulty is acute travel problems. The complete lack of transport services after 6 o’clock in the evening means that only children with parents who have access to a car can access youth services. Not every village has a youth service. I have 172 communities in my constituency, and there are probably youth services in nine or 10. I accept what my hon. Friend says, but it is almost intolerably difficult for young people to access services in rural communities if other services are not in place, and my county council is cutting everything.
I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. She is absolutely right that people must be able to get to facilities. In constituencies such as hers and mine, where there are many villages, transport is a factor. My son is a member of Rodborough Eagles, a football team that does extraordinarily well. He is a much better footballer than I ever could have been because he is not flat-footed and is a really good defender. The key point is that he visits many different parts of my constituency, and I join him as often as I can. That football club is a youth service, and an option for him and his friends to enjoy, and is part of youth service provision. A variety of different services can be tapped into.
My hon. Friend is right. It is important when considering statutory services, which have an important role to play, as I said during my speech, to remember that there is a vast range of other services, such as sports clubs—Beverley rugby club, Beverley cricket club, the Meridian gym, which my younger daughter attends, and the Eastside gym which serves more than 700 children at Hedon in my constituency. I pay tribute to people such as Andy Dickinson and Steve Crane who do such a good job of providing services on a voluntary basis.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) is absolutely right, and his point is central to the matter. We should not think that youth services are just about statutory provision, because they are not. They are all part of the big society, which is encouraging many villages in my constituency to start thinking about providing the services that people need, including youth services.
I think that I have made my point about the rich variety of facilities, clubs, sports clubs and so on with which young people can get involved, and about the powerful role played by charities in providing facilities.
Before concluding his remarks, perhaps my hon. Friend will touch on the provision made by what these days we call faith communities and in the old days used to call Churches. There is an ongoing debate about the role of Christianity and other faiths and religions in public life, and a lot of churches provide important youth facilities that often are not restricted only to members of one particular denomination. The King’s Arms in Petersfield is one such example—
Thank you, Mr Robertson. Your point is absolutely right, but it shows that we can think of more examples than just the evidence provided by the Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire is right about Churches. My father used to take me to Sunday school, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first bit. I have remained a member of the Church of England for some time, and I look forward to a life of such membership. My own children had a similar sort of arrangement. Church organisations play a part in providing great facilities for young people, and I have seen that in action.
We are in danger of labouring the point, although I think that it has been well made. I am therefore going to move on to the point raised by the hon. Member for Wigan about the national citizen service. As she said, we went to Germany and looked at the range of options that were available for young people. We noticed first that a huge number of young people were participating in Germany’s equivalent of our national citizen service, and that to a large extent the activities were work based. That is the essential reason why, broadly speaking, the programme costs just over £1,000 in Germany for the year, but about the same in this country for a number of weeks. That is the big difference between the German system and the fledgling system in Britain, and the German system has a number of noteworthy advantages.
First, the work-based nature of the programme chimes well with the emphasis that is put on training and education in Germany, and the relationship that has with employers and professional activities. We need to embed such an attitude to education and to what happens afterwards in our own culture. It was obvious to me that the schemes that we saw in Germany provided a strong continuity from education to employment, and we should learn from that.
The second interesting thing that I noticed in Germany was the consistency of the youth programmes. We visited a fire station just outside Berlin, and there was a continual throughput of young people. Young people had to make a choice, but they knew what those choices were before they had to make them. From that, I gleaned that young people were able to think about what they were going to be doing outside and immediately after school. I thought that that was really encouraging; the experience of working in that fire station meant being part of a large team with awards, presentations, pictures and so on. Such things demonstrated that people had been there and benefited from being there, before going on to do something else that was the right step in their career development. Those who were starting the programme could see the results and the beneficial outcomes.
Those are the differences that I saw between the German system and the national citizen service. That did not stop me, however, from writing to local secondary schools in my constituency to remind them of the value of the NCS, and to make sure that they informed their students about getting involved in the schemes provided by the NCS. I hope that students get involved in the programme, but if the NCS is to continue in the long term, we must learn one or two of the lessons that I have just mentioned. It is imperative to provide the schemes that we propose with a sense of continuity and worthiness.
Too often in this country we end up putting things into silos. We forget that most things are linked and that most policies are not dependent on the work or delivery of one Department, but that there are connections between Departments, agencies and other structures. The provision of youth services is a good example. What matters is not only the budget provided by the Department for Education, or wherever, but the overall Government approach and the links between various policies—including the Work programme, for example—as well as what we do in and expect from our schools, our objectives for social services, employment opportunities, and so forth. That is why it is dangerous to rely only on the evidence that we are given. At times, we have got to think slightly beyond that, and the provision of youth services is one such example. That is why the Government are sensible in encouraging other things to happen, rather than just the statutory provision.
I am not entirely sure how to follow that last speech, but I will definitely get a copy of Hansard tomorrow and read it. I am sure that it will be even better the second time round.
I have never spoken in a Westminster Hall debate on a Select Committee report before, and I was not sure what to expect. So far, however, it is exceeding even my wildest imaginings. I am pleased to speak in this debate. Having seen what happens, it is now clear to me that the purpose of such a debate is not for members of the Committee to get together—in a sense, we could have had this debate in a bar—but for us to duff up the Minister verbally, and hopefully get a response from him that will satisfy some of the recommendations that came out of an incredibly well researched and evidence- based report.
It is difficult, particularly in my part of the country, to speak in a debate about youth services without seeing them in the wider context of, for example, youth employment and unemployment. The timing of this debate is particularly opportune, given that youth unemployment currently stands at more than 1 million.
In my constituency of North West Durham, unemployment has doubled in the past two years, and 13% of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants are aged between 18 and 24. In human terms, that is 1,290 young people aged between 18 and 24 in my constituency who are not receiving any form of education or training and are not in employment. That is a human tragedy for them, but from my point of view, it is a case of déjà vu. It is like a rerun of the 1980s. We are in danger of creating yet another lost generation, with all the costs that that has for society.
I know that the Government are concerned about the issue. They talk about families living in dependency and they launch initiatives to deal with the most complex and costly families, who collectively, across the country, are costing us billions of pounds in benefits and in terms of health. They take up the vast majority of the time and resources of housing services, the police and justice services. Much of that has its roots in mass youth unemployment—what we saw in the ’80s and ’90s.
I see families in my constituency who do not work, and my constituency is not so different from many others. It is a large rural constituency, with an urban population in one corner—
The hon. Lady is very fair-minded and will want to recognise the fact that mass youth unemployment has been a reality for the entirety of the time that we are talking about. From the beginning, it was pretty solid. It did not move in the boom years of the previous Government. After the financial crisis, it went up. Although there was a temporary drop before the last election, the upward movement was there. It is a systemic issue, which we need to tackle. It is certainly not the result of any immediate policies of a Government who have been in power for 22 months.
My hon. Friend is right to place the issue in the wider context. Does she agree that when youth unemployment rose in the mid-2000s, that was because there was an increase in labour supply—more young people were looking for the same number of jobs—whereas the skyrocketing of youth unemployment since the current Government came to power has been caused by a collapse in labour demand? The jobs simply are not there. The Minister needs to take that seriously.
I agree. In my constituency at the moment, 12 young people are chasing every vacancy. However, I want to look back to what mass unemployment causes and to look at what we will face in the future. I see people in my constituency who do not work. Their parents did not work and in all probability their children will not work. They place no value on education. They see schools as convenient baby-sitting services when their children are younger, but have no interest in whether they attend school when they are older. They have no investment in the present and no hope in the future, and they certainly do not vote.
However, the situation was not always as I have described. In communities such as mine before the 1980s and the early ’90s, those people had work. They worked in steelworks, in mines and in all the industries surrounding those big beasts, but all that has gone and we have not put anything in place for them. The cycle of depression and waste is costing the country billions of pounds, and it starts with youth unemployment. Depressingly, I can see the cycle beginning again.
As a member of the Education Committee, I was therefore very keen that early on we should take a look at services for young people and particularly services targeted at vulnerable and challenging young people. As we have heard, the Select Committee examined those services, particularly in the context of rising 16-to-19 participation in education, and we found several issues that worried us greatly, not least the major cuts in youth services and careers services.
We made a number of sensible recommendations, based on the evidence that we heard. We did not think that the Government response was adequate. I hope that the Minister can make a better showing today. In response to the Government response, we highlighted our recommendations again. We are looking for an endorsement of the outcomes framework. I know how hard it is to focus Governments on outcomes. That is very difficult for Governments. I could entertain hon. Members all afternoon with accounts of the attempts that various Governments have made to focus on outcomes and that have gone wrong.
However, we think that it would be worth while for the Government to consider an endorsement of the outcomes framework. We have recommended that the Government set out the grounds on which they will judge a local authority to have failed to provide sufficient services for young people and the ways in which Ministers will act to secure improvement, so that it is clear across the piece, for local authorities and for young people, when local authorities have failed to deliver services and what Ministers will do to secure improvement.
We underlined our finding that some local authority youth services had already closed and urged Ministers to intervene before it was too late. We told the Government that it was not good enough to dismiss our estimate of public spending on youth services, which is based on their own figures, and demanded that they provide us with their own assessment of annual public spending on youth services for each of the 10 years before introduction of the early intervention grant, so that we and others can see clearly exactly what has been spent on young people’s services in the past, what is being spent now and what is being cut and where. We raised concerns—we have discussed this already—about the potential impact of charging for the national citizen service and the impact of the NCS on youth services generally.
Most of all, we highlighted the fact that services for young people—education funding, careers services, youth services and home to school and college transport services—were at risk. Indeed, some were disappearing before our eyes—some as a result of direct Government cuts and some indirectly, through cuts to local authority funding.
[Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]
Like the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), I spent six weeks serving on the Committee considering the Bill that became the Education Act 2011. In fact, I think that we spent about eight weeks together; we entertained one another for eight weeks. The hon. Gentlemen will remember, as I do, that the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning gave an undertaking when we made it clear to him that day that careers services were disappearing. He said that he would take action “imminently”. When we asked what “imminently” meant, he said that it would be when he left the room. However, despite his good intentions, what has happened on the ground is that careers services have disappeared.
I go into schools all the time. The responsibility has been transferred to schools, and when I ask schools what is happening with careers services, they tell me, “Oh, Miss So-and-so does it as part of PSHE”—personal, social, health and economic education—or that sixth formers have access to support when filling in UCAS forms. That is what careers services for young people in schools today have been reduced to. It is simply not good enough.
Youth services—both universal services and targeted services for vulnerable young people—have been cut or have disappeared. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) gave a very good description of how that is happening. There have been job losses in these services, with specialist, experienced, difficult-to-replace staff leaving. I have some experience of having to replace specialist staff after a specialist service has closed down, and it is not easy. Those people do not hang on the backs of doors; they are highly qualified, flexible and often mobile. They are hard to train and incredibly hard to replace.
Doug Nicholls, of the union Unite, has estimated that some 3,000 specialist youth service staff face losing their jobs and 20% of youth centres in England and Wales are closing down. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), when she sums up the debate, will give more details on it, but she has made this estimate:
“A massive £200 million worth of cuts will have been made to youth services by April this year hitting young people and damaging chances of getting the economy back on track.”
All that has happened not just because of the cuts in services, but because the ring fencing around these services has been removed. That has hit young people living in Tory and Liberal Democrat-run council areas the hardest. Research shows that 60% of Tory and Lib Dem councils are making significant cuts to their youth services, whereas Labour local authorities, which are often those facing the greatest cuts in their funding, are at least targeting that funding at those whom they consider most vulnerable and are seeking to protect services for young people. That means cuts to youth service centre hours and sometimes closures. Less help is being given to young people through useful activities that lead to work and training and away from negative influences leading to crime, alcohol and drug abuse and gang involvement.
In my constituency, the local YMCA in Consett, which does tremendous work, often with the least able and most challenging young people, is struggling to find funding. Billy Robson, who has run the YMCA for as long as I can remember, tells me that two years ago, he was confident that the YMCA could improve the life of even the most difficult and challenging young person. Nobody knows more about supporting young people than he does.
However, he tells me that he now feels unusually gloomy, particularly about the dwindling opportunities available to the large numbers of young people who are not in education, employment or training. There are a few jobs, but they are usually short-term and sometimes part-time factory jobs. Even then, 12 young people are queuing up for every vacancy. Billy tells me that it is soul-destroying listening to young people who cannot get work. Their sense of despondency goes deeper and deeper. He says that it is the biggest struggle that he has faced since the closure of British Steel in 1980. He wants to be upbeat for the sake of the young people, but when he has to pay off his own staff, on whom those young people depend, it is hard to be positive.
Over the past year, he has applied for about £1 million in funding from organisations such as the Northern Rock Foundation, Greggs and the National Offender Management Service, but has not been successful in any of those applications. He says that because local authority funds have been cut, charities are competing for available private sector money. The Prince’s Trust runs numerous fantastic programmes from the YMCA in Consett that support young people into training and hopefully employment, but the Prince’s Trust seems to be one of the few organisations that have any funding left.
The Government, at a sweep, abolished the education maintenance allowance, which did more to improve 16-plus participation and narrow the gap between the richest and poorest students than any other scheme that I saw in my 25 years in education. To justify abolishing EMA, the Government relied for their evidence on one report, commissioned for a different purpose by a different Government, involving a group of young people, many of whom were ineligible for EMA on the ground of age. The author of that report, who gave evidence to our Committee, was clearly angry about how the Secretary of State had manipulated his figures and his report to justify abolishing EMA.
As a result, 16-to-19 participation has fallen back to levels not seen in this country since the early 1990s. When I asked the Secretary of State about it, he told me that participation had not fallen at all colleges, only at some. It would be good to hear from the Minister exactly where participation by 16 to 19-year-olds has increased. I am not a betting person, but I am happy to bet next month’s salary that participation is up in the south and down in the north, up in the wealthy shires and down in the inner cities and up among the highest earners and down among poor people.
I turn to the Liberal Democrats’ famous flagship policy, the pupil premium. There are probably a couple of dozen education funding geeks around the country, and I am one of them. It was actually quite exciting once I got into it. I know that pupil premium money is not new; it is recycled money. For all its good intentions, it has been recycled from schools with concentrations of the poorest children and young people and siphoned off to richer parts of the country with fewer poor children.
I was going to say what a great speech the hon. Lady was making. I was just wondering where EMA and the pupil premium fit in the context of youth services. They are associated more with the question of getting young people into education, keeping them there and supporting the people most in need in the most appropriate way when they are in education.
Sorry, Mr Betts. I am discussing services for young people, and EMA and its abolition are as much a part of that as services through youth centres or careers services.
There is clear evidence that the pupil premium, for all its good intentions, recycles money from schools with concentrations of the poorest children and young people and siphons off resources to richer parts of the country with fewer poor children. That is because the pupil premium has largely replaced additional education needs funding, which, although it was called different things in different local authorities, was needs-based funding for schools to support their least able and most vulnerable pupils. The AEN formula in each local authority was made up of different factors, but was legally required to include a deprivation factor. Some local authorities used the index of multiple deprivation while others used free school meals, but the basis of AEN funding was a needs-based deprivation factor.
AEN also had an accumulator effect. Schools with fewer than 15% of children on free school meals got nothing in most local authorities, on the basis that that was the norm and that need could and should be met from existing school funding. Schools with between 15% and 24% had a basic level of AEN funding, but then the level escalated massively between 25% and 35% in acknowledgment of the need for additional resources to deal with more complex issues in driving improvement. Any school where more than 35% of children received free school meals was given a huge step in funding, in recognition that those schools were dealing with complex issues needing additional capacity.
The pupil premium gives a basic amount per pupil, drawing money from schools and areas with the highest concentration of free school meals and of poorer children and giving it to wealthier areas with fewer free school meals. If anybody wants evidence of what is happening in their local authority and whether they are winners or losers when it comes to the pupil premium, I can give them a breakdown, courtesy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who has researched the matter in detail.
Would the hon. Lady like to comment on the fact that a large number of schools are rural and very small? For example, I have a school in my constituency with 68 children. Surely, in that situation, if two families are not so well off, the school will quickly come to its 15% threshold. The pupil premium is directed precisely at those individual children suffering from deprivation, as opposed to thinking that it was fine to mash them in with everybody else if there were fewer than 15%. It only takes nine or 10 children—a few families with multiple children—for such a school to have a significant number of young people with difficulties, without being over the 15% threshold where something would step in under the old system.
As an education funding geek, I have an answer for that. There was an element for small schools. For small rural schools, most local authorities had an element of funding for vulnerable and poor children that was separate from AEN funding. Those schools were already catered for by other parts of the funding formula.
The East Riding of Yorkshire was, for a long time, the fourth lowest funded authority in the country and is now the eighth lowest, despite the demonstrable increase in the cost of delivering education in a sparsely populated rural and coastal area. It is not obvious, however one looks at the complex formula, how to work out whether it properly recognises the needs of an area. The pupil premium has the elegant benefit of directly targeting an additional sum to help schools provide educational support for children on free school meals.
The beauty of the education funding formula—it is complex and if we tweak one end of it we cause a huge tsunami at the other end—is that it was locally driven. Each local authority looked at its funding formula and had the opportunity to take into account things such as small schools, rural schools and small areas of deprivation. No one, I think, would accept that it is good to take money away from schools in which more than 50% of the kids are on free school meals and share it out among schools in which only 2% or 3% of the children are on free school meals; it does not make sense and it is certainly not what was intended. The scheme was well intentioned, but it is driving money from those schools that have high concentrations of poorer children and moving it to schools with small concentrations.
Everything that is happening in youth services and careers services, and everything that has happened with EMA, young people’s funding and higher education, where participation from poorer young people from the poorest regions has collapsed in parts of the country because of the tripling of tuition fees—when the Chairman of the Select Committee gave the audience in the Guildhall in York the benefit of the Government’s policy on this, it was clear that people had glazed over and were not listening—has a cumulative effect, and it will take a generation to replace and restore services for young people.
I have so much to say, but I will make just a few points. I want to clarify one or two things and draw the Minister’s attention to a number of issues. Will he explain, for example, the grounds on which the Government feel able to intervene when a local authority does not provide sufficient services for young people? As he probably knows, I represent a rural constituency in Somerset. I have already mentioned the difficulties with transport. There is very little transport after 6 pm and a reducing service before 6 pm. In fact, I have just received a text from my son, saying that he is stranded at school because there is no bus, which is absolutely no good as I am here. The difficulties for young people to move from one community to another are immense. It is almost impossible for them to access services in a town nearby, even if it is only three or four miles away.
The coalition’s stated No.1 social policy goal is to increase social mobility. One of the things that I want us to consider is the difference between targeting youth services, which is probably well intentioned but tends to make us think of young people in silos, and using an open-access provision. One of the advantages of youth clubs and youth services is that they give young people another chance to achieve in a different forum from their school, football club or wherever. They provide young people with another chance to max out on their potential.
If I consider my experience of youth work, I can see that there are people who might have been attracted into low-level crime, slightly antisocial behaviour or something a little more serious. There are young people who are absent from school with illness, who are truanting or who get caught up in alcohol and drug abuse. One of my particular concerns is the increasing number of young people who suffer from some sort of mental health problem that exhibits itself in the form of an eating disorder, self-harm and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide.
I am deeply concerned that young people in my constituency are unable to access child and adolescent mental health services. Just last week, a young person spoke to me about the fact that she had reported how she felt at school. The school was not allowed to give her any counselling, even though the person to whom she would have spoken is actually involved in the youth service and is trained to give such advice, so she had to be referred to CAMHS, which said that a representative would phone her on a certain day. They did not phone. They then sent her a text message, saying that she had been referred as an emergency, but as she had not been available to take the call—she had removed herself from her class to take that phone call—she was shovelled off the list. They sent her a text message, saying that they assumed that she was no longer a priority case because she had not been there to take the call that had never come.
When young people get to the point that they are actually reporting that they feel dreadful—it often takes them a very long time to get to that point—my sense is that they need help right then. They do not need help in three weeks’ time or in six months’ time; they need help now. My strong sense is that the youth service is often another outlet for young people. There is someone whom they can talk to and trust—not one of their teachers or parents, or a member of the family, but someone who is independent and has specialist knowledge of how to deal with young people. I am concerned that young people in my part of the world do not have access to that expertise, except through the youth service.
The other benefit of the youth service comes from the fact that it is a universal service. Young people have the opportunity to meet people who are different from themselves. That can help to expand their ambitions, expectations and their ability to explore. Certainly, things such as careers advice can come from a trained youth worker who can direct young people to other places, expand their horizons and make the world a much bigger place. That happens in rural Somerset. A young person might not go to university because they cannot anticipate how they will be able to afford to pay their accommodation and living costs in a university town or city. The likelihood is that they might do exactly what their parents, other members of the family, or previous generations have done and not look outside at what they might potentially want to do.
I have been asked to draw the Minister’s attention to the Hughes report of July 2011. Importantly, the whole business of careers help, advice and guidance can be done on a face-to-face basis by those people in the youth services and the youth clubs who may be in a position of authority but who are incredibly accessible to young people. They can give young people a bit of a lift and a shove in the right direction to do something different and to expand their horizons.
I worry that specialist staff in areas such as Somerset feel under threat and are leaving because the services are being withdrawn or significantly reduced. They cannot be re-employed easily. They are well trained and have loads of experience. When the county council invites volunteer groups, such as Church groups or the young farmers’ club, to take on the services in a village, they will not have the ability to employ someone with the expertise of a youth worker because they will be deemed to be expensive, even if it is for one night a week. So I worry that we will lose those skills and that experience in places such as Somerset.
We should look at some of the barriers that young people feel exist when accessing services that are run by certain organisations, including religious organisations. For some young people, there are some barriers to accessing any sort of service that has a faith heading. I must say that a strong exception to that is a service run by a Church-led organisation in one of the communities in my constituency. The service that is offered is absolutely superb and certainly not overtly religious in nature. There is little connection between the young people who use the service and the Church that runs it. So it is not always the case that there is a difficulty with religious organisations running youth services, but we must be very careful.
In summary, youth services are very important, particularly in rural areas. In places with no school sixth form and where a lot of people’s ambitions are limited by the situation in which they find themselves, I am very keen that we continue to provide youth services. We must always remember that for young people to blossom, we must help them to get past the survival basics and ensure that they have someone good, sound and solid to whom they can talk and with whom they can make friends, so that they can receive advice and help all the way through their youth.
Thank you very much, Mr Betts, for calling me to speak.
I congratulate the Education Committee on its report and its Chairman, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), on his opening speech. There is much that is excellent in the report, which contains a powerful critique of the Government’s approach and other points that I hope the Minister will respond to.
There have also been some excellent speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and for North West Durham (Pat Glass), which were drawn from their considerable personal expertise and knowledge, both in their local communities and more widely, in the area of youth work. I also found much to agree with in the contribution that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Wells (Tessa Munt).
What is clear from the Education Committee’s report and from the speeches that we have heard today is that we all agree that youth services matter, and they matter most to the most vulnerable and to the most challenged communities. As my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham said, in the context of youth unemployment—with 250,000 young people who have been unemployed for more than a year and with 1.4 million under-25s who are not in education, employment or training—the value of youth services is even greater. Although it is completely correct that youth unemployment did not start in the spring of 2010, the fact that it has increased and is a major and consistent problem is all the more reason why greater care should have been taken, and should still be taken, to provide the funding and support for a youth service that is one strategy among a number of different strategies to help young people to cope with the tragic experience of unemployment.
As my hon. Friend also said, the context of youth unemployment also includes the removal of education maintenance allowance. The removal of EMA matters not only because of education—this is not a debate about EMA itself and its value—but because young people need to be able to provide for themselves. That ability means gaining access not only to education, but to enrichment and support, which includes the youth service and the valuable application of young people’s own leisure time. The fact that many young people are now being denied opportunities to attend enrichment activities in out-of-school programmes—for example, the opportunity to pay for the transport that the hon. Member for Wells referred to—is also relevant to the Select Committee’s report. Young people whom I have spoken to were furious about the removal of EMA. I would say that it was probably the one aspect of policy that they felt even more strongly about than the raising of tuition fees for higher education.
We have touched a little on the riots. It is absolutely right that we understand—we all do understand—that the riots did not occur because of cuts in youth services; no one is alleging that the riots occurred because of those cuts. However, the fact that youth services and the wide range of provision for young people have been under such pressure, particularly in some of our toughest urban communities, did not help. As two excellent reports—the London School of Economics report, “Reading the Riots”, and the Children’s Society report, “Reporting the Riots”—indicate, the riots should be a warning to us not to neglect youth services even further in our most challenged communities.
There are many important points in the Education Committee’s report that Opposition and Government Members can agree on. We can all agree that youth services, or services for young people, span a much wider range of activities than the statutory youth service framework. We have heard examples of excellent practice in a range of community, faith, sporting and, of course, privately-supported and business-supported activities, which form part of the life opportunities for many young people. Indeed, statutory youth work itself covers a variety of different activities, ranging from outreach to youth clubs and from school-based youth work to careers guidance. Of course, there is also the national citizenship service, which I will refer to later. It is right that we appreciate the range of those activities and that we look to have a different pattern of services and activities in different types of community. What will be effective in a constituency in inner London, such as my own, will not be the right mix for communities in rural areas, the north of England and so forth.
What we need to do—the Education Committee’s report certainly implies this if it does not explicitly state it—is do better at mapping the range of activities that are accessible and available to young people, so that we have a better understanding of the context within which our statutory youth services operate. That leads us to something that came out strongly in the speech by the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness—namely, that we have a real problem with the quality of data, both on inputs and outcomes. Better quality of data would enable us to make better judgments about the quality and value of youth services.
Data about inputs are of only limited value, but they are none the less important. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan made a request for a better and more consistent data set, so that we can look at what has happened to the funding of statutory youth services over a decade, and she was absolutely right to do so. Within that context, however, the absorption of so many different youth services programmes into the early intervention grant has made it even harder to get a handle on what is happening to the funding of statutory youth services. The Minister should help us to address that problem.
It is a central point of the Education Committee’s report that we lack rigour in understanding what works. That is not a new problem for this Government, but we do not have the dataset to enable us to make better judgments about what works in terms of quality and outcome. The Minister has promised that he will respond to those points, and I hope he will. He needs to convince us that the Government have a strategy to ensure that services for young people are delivering and to monitor how they are delivering, so that we can make proper judgments about what works.
What we do have a good idea about is the scale of the cuts in youth services funding over the last couple of years. We know that there has been a real-terms 20% cut in the early intervention grant and that around half of local authorities have cut their youth services in the last two years, with Conservative and Liberal Democrat councils making the biggest cuts overall. We also know that those cuts are disproportionate to the local government average and that about £200 million worth of cuts will have been made to youth services by April this year. In some cases, that means that centres are closing, but it also means that youth workers have lost their jobs. Around 3,000 youth workers are at risk of losing their jobs, which means that even those centres that can remain open are providing a much lower level of service.
The House of Commons Library has analysed some of this information about the cuts for me. In some cases, local authorities have cut 100% of their youth provision. For example, Kingston upon Thames has cut 100% of its youth provision; Peterborough 89%; Westminster 70%; Bracknell Forest 48%; and so forth. There is a long list of local authorities that have cut their youth provision; they are not all Conservative or Liberal Democrat-controlled authorities, but there is a strong bias in that direction.
From the evidence that was given to the Select Committee and subsequently from the publication of Positive for Youth, the Government’s youth strategy, we know that the leading national organisations in the youth service field challenge the Minister’s claim that large slugs of money have been spent on youth services, and they question what that actually means. We have had the figures that support their concern.
We have heard today, and the Select Committee report draws out, a worry that the national citizenship service, the aspirations of and principle behind which no one is challenging, potentially eats up a disproportionate volume of such scarce resources as are available. My local authority is one of the pilots, and I have found out that last year just 60 young people participated in the programme and, most worryingly for the Minister, only a third of them were on free school meals. In an ideal world we would all be happy to support the scheme, but when resources are so tightly constrained it is extremely worrying that we provide so much money for a scheme for such a small number of young people—it will be a bigger number this summer, but still tiny proportionately—such a small proportion of whom are from lower-income backgrounds.
I am rather curious about what the hon. Lady says. She says that only a third of the participants in the NCS—it is national citizen, not citizenship, service—are on free school meals, but that is three times the proportion in the general population, so we are doing rather well. I wonder how many of the young people who went on the scheme in her Westminster constituency she has met, and what their testimonials were of the value of the scheme.
I think that the Minister misses my point. I do not dispute that the scheme has the potential to be a good one. My argument is that in the four wards of my local authority that are in the highest two deciles of deprivation in the country, there are 6,000 teenagers, so, on the face of it, a scheme that concentrates, as it did last year, on just 60 of those young people, only a third of whom are on free school dinners, does not represent good value for money. He is absolutely right that the number of children on free school dinners is above the national average, but it is not above the average for Westminster. We have a great number of schools and a very deprived school population, and the last time I checked we had the ninth highest proportion of children on free school dinners in the country. As my hon. Friends have drawn out in the debate, we need to be alert to that issue—not because of the principle of the programme, but because we need to question whether, at this moment, it is the right one.
We have heard a number of important points about not just the amount of money, but how we get it to work effectively, the relationship between the statutory agencies and that between them and charities, including small ones, and the number of funding sources that some youth centres have to draw in to make the centres sustainable. A particular concern of mine is that we have seen in the youth service a reliance on short-term funding. Again, that did not start in 2010, but there is patchwork funding, with very short-term funding streams, which are around for a year or six months and then disappear.
A critical word that I do not think we heard from the Chairman of the Select Committee, or from anyone this afternoon, and which is absolutely at the heart of youth service delivery, is “relationships”. Young people, particularly those from the most challenged environments, value their relationships with statutory youth workers and others who work in the youth service. It is important to reflect on the fact that when such relationships are vulnerable and are disrupted, perhaps because there is high turnover, the impact disproportionately damages young people’s lives.
The cuts in the youth service will not be cost-free. We know that diversion and prevention is a central role of the youth service, and we all agree that we need to do better at building the data to demonstrate that. Where youth services are not available to provide the right range of activities, it is likely that at least some young people will find themselves caught up in antisocial, and sometimes criminal, behaviour.
We heard, importantly, about early intervention, and the hon. Member for Wells made a point about mental health and the worryingly high and increasing level of poor mental health among many young people. I think that we all agree that early intervention should not be something we discuss just in the context of the under-fives. It is a moving concept, and the changeover from primary to secondary school and into adolescence is a critical time for us to focus on early intervention. The youth service can, of course, contribute much to the enrichment and support of learning, and we need to do better at demonstrating that.
What should the Government do? We need them to do better at supporting the sector through change, and ensuring that when youth services draw, as they sometimes should, on private and voluntary funding, it is not necessarily a time of massive disruption and short-term funding. We need to hear young people’s voices, as the Select Committee did, and reflect those voices in policy, and we need greater honesty about what is happening out there and about the criteria for intervention. I hope that the Minister will respond on that point. He has been honest in telling the National Youth Agency that youth service cuts have been disproportionate compared to those to the total funding for local government, and he has promised us guidance on what the intervention would be when the cuts were disproportionate.
We have some figures, and I have a freedom of information request out at the moment and am looking forward to the reply. We understand what is going on out there, and we now need to know when the Minister will intervene, what his definition of disproportionate cuts is and how he will stop local authorities that are effectively withdrawing, or doing devastating damage to, their youth service.
The Children’s Society report on the riots, which has wider application, states that
“those in the transition to adulthood stage said that more government support is needed—two thirds (67%) of 17 year olds and six out of ten (60%) of young adults... This mirrors the response of young people in the focus groups, with… participants saying that more activities and support are needed to ‘occupy young people with something constructive’.”
Without such support, we are likely to face genuine costs in the failure to meet needs, particularly those of our most deprived young people. It is to its considerable credit that the Select Committee understands that, but the reality on the ground indicates that the Government do not yet do so.
We have had an interesting and, indeed, rather different debate this afternoon, and I congratulate the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), on ensuring that we have had time to debate youth issues. We do not do that enough in the House, and I absolutely welcome anything that Parliament—Select Committees, Ministers, Opposition Members and Back Benchers—can produce to highlight the panoply of issues and challenges that young people face. Young people and children are 20% of our population and 100% of our future, and they need to feel that their concerns are taken more seriously. This debate is just one opportunity to flag up a whole lot of issues that affect young people at the moment.
At times, I thought that I had strayed into the wrong debate. This is a debate about the youth service report, which covers 13 to 25-year-olds, but somehow we got on to the education maintenance allowance, the English baccalaureate and various other things. I thought that the Chairman of the Select Committee was restrained in not upbraiding his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael), as I gather he was previously at pains to point out that, because of his own educational experience, he would have failed the E-bac. However, we did at times get on to the Select Committee report.
I have a speech, but I want to discard it and try to address some of the issues that have come up. Then at the end, if we have time, I will perhaps give the Chairman of the Select Committee a right of reply, as is traditional. I will perhaps also come on to some of the things that I had planned to say.
I think that we all share the same aims. I do not think that there is any difference between us in that we all feel a need to get a better deal for young people. There might be some concerns about the national citizen service, but I think that its aims are absolutely shared and that we all appreciate that everyone getting those sorts of life-changing experiences would be a good thing.
I absolutely welcome the fact that the Select Committee undertook the study and produced its report, but I have been critical of how the report was produced, because it dwelled disproportionately on the national citizen service, which covers only a small part of the age group that the Committee considered. I also have the criticism that, although the Committee was concerned to flag up some inadequacies of the national citizen service, it did not interview any young people who had been on national citizen service. There are many willing volunteers who would have given their testimonies.
It seems slightly odd that, in its critique of national citizen service, the Committee went to Germany to try to make a comparison with the Zivildienst scheme, which was the alternative to military service in that country, where, at the age of 19, young people could either do 11 months’ military service or 13 months’ civilian service. When compulsory military service was suspended in 2011, the Zivildienst was also suspended.
There are big differences between that scheme and national citizen service. Young people tended to volunteer in old people’s homes, hospitals or churches, for example. They would get a small salary for doing so and the organisation hosting the young person contributed to the cost. So it was a completely different sort of scheme that was born out of completely different circumstances with completely different funding arrangements. That is why I am concerned that the Committee appears to have been initiating criticisms about national citizen service based on something that happened in a different country.
Although I was very glad that many young people contributed online and in the discussion forums, which is absolutely right and is something I strongly encourage, I was concerned that few young people were called as witnesses in front of the Committee. I am also not aware that any young people worked on the report with the Committee’s special advisers and Clerks.
When we produced Positive for Youth, of which I am very proud—it was a long-standing piece of work that absolutely rightly took a while to produce—young people were involved at every stage. They were given drafts and various policy proposals to tear to bits and asked to come back with their responses. In considering one of the later drafts, 150 young people assembled at the O2 arena. They pulled various parts of the report apart and came back with their suggestions.
We had a big event at the Queen Elizabeth II centre that involved more than 300 people. More than 50 young people were there and, at every stage, they had their input and felt ownership of Positive for Youth. Whether or not someone agrees with the document’s contents, I do not think that many people are arguing about the fact that we exhaustively consulted a load of people in the youth sector, particularly young people themselves.
The Minister is spending a disproportionately inordinate amount of time on something that is not central to the issue, but I would like to correct him. The process was that we took evidence from young people on panels in multiple oral evidence sessions, and we also conducted the student forum. As we are a parliamentary Committee, young people cannot form part of the team that puts the report together, but we had massive engagement with young people throughout the whole process—for example, by using the student forum and so on. I thought that I had written to the Minister to set him right on that issue because he was clearly so misinformed. If I failed to do so, I apologise for allowing him to continue in such a position of ignorance.
My point holds clear. The fact that there was the online forum and other people not on the Committee consulted young people does not mean that young people appeared in front of the Committee itself. The Committee visited no youth projects in the United Kingdom; it went to Germany. Indeed, the report contains an apology for the fact that the Committee did not get out and visit some of the projects that it was due to see. I think that I am correct in saying that young people were not involved in the compilation, road testing or critique of the final report. That is the point I am making. If the Chairman of the Select Committee wants to correct me on that, he can do so.
The contrast with Positive for Youth is that young people saw the drafts, wrote the words, changed the final results, were consulted around the country, came into my office and went to the O2. In addition, we went to lots of different projects around the country to get young people’s views and those of other people involved in youth services. That is why I think that Positive for Youth was a fantastic exercise in involving people, particularly young people. Select Committees could gain some experience from that.
I am particularly pleased—I was going to mention this in a moment—that we are funding the British Youth Council to set up a youth select committee, which will act as a shadow select committee and, I hope, meet in this place and take evidence from the Chairman of the Select Committee and others, particularly young people. That sends out a fantastic signal that we value young people’s input in the place where it matters—here—as well.
I do not want to enter too much into a private quarrel, but surely the fact is that Positive for Youth is in most respects a perfectly good strategic document. The Select Committee report is extremely good in its analysis of some of the weaknesses of the Government’s approach to youth services, but the point is that wherever young people are brought together, the single message they give is: “We are not overly bothered about the reports you produce. We are bothered about the actual youth work that is available and the activities that are accessible to us in our communities.” That is what they tell us, and it is what they tell virtually every MP who is faced with closures and cuts in their youth services.
Young people would tell the hon. Lady—she did not answer my earlier question about whether she had met any young people from her constituency who had been on national citizen service—that they value being involved and having their views taken on board. Absolutely, they value having their questions and concerns answered. Whether or not young people get the answers that they want, they need to be taken seriously. Absolutely, we have tried to take on board young people’s views and give them ownership of this youth policy.
Positive for Youth is not a finished document that, as with so many other past Government reports, will go on a shelf and gather dust. It is an evolving, organic and living document that I want every young person in the country to wave in the face of the leader of their local council and the mayor at their town hall and say, “This is what Positive for Youth says should happen. We want it to happen here. How can we make it happen here? Why isn’t it happening here?” That is why a lot of things will evolve from it and why, in a year’s time, I will come back to Positive for Youth and do an audit of what has and has not been achieved. I will go back to those areas of weakness, and I will also flag up areas of strength where we can learn from best practice, which we are particularly bad at doing.
Although the Minister is absolutely right not to be complacent about young people’s involvement, the Committee was very keen to ensure that we listened to young people, but that we did not take the young people to whom we spoke as necessarily representing others. They were representing themselves, and we found that incredibly valuable. If he is so keen to listen to young people, will he listen to the overwhelming anger and frustration that the abolition of education maintenance allowance caused and reinstate it with immediate effect?
We could have a debate about EMA—indeed, I have been part of such debates—but it is not part of the youth report. If the hon. Lady would like to talk about EMA, I will mention that, last night, I was with a group of young people who are in the care system and who have benefited disproportionately from the alternative to EMA—the higher education bursary. They will gain more under that bursary than they did under EMA. We could have that completely different argument, but I think you would rule us out of order, Mr Betts.
I want to try to address some of the points that the Select Committee Chairman raised, particularly the one about the statutory duty. We have published the consultation on what we will do about the statutory duty, and I have sent out very strong, clear signals regarding some of the disproportionate cuts that we have seen. As the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) acknowledged, I have absolutely admitted that, in certain parts of the country, some councils are being short-sighted in treating youth services as soft targets. They are not taking a long-term view about the implications of such an approach.
We are consulting on what, practically, the statutory duty should mean. We have had it since 1996, but it has never been used. If we are to have such a duty, it must be meaningful and something that people will appreciate. However, a very important point comes out of Positive for Youth in relation to the fact that local authorities and others are part of the youth offer. To believe that youth services are provided by local authorities alone is a mistake. The youth offer includes, as several hon. Members have mentioned, a load of different organisations that involve local authorities, social enterprises, voluntary organisations, charities and private companies, yet we focus disproportionately on how much money local authorities invest in certain youth-orientated services. The bigger picture shows that the offer is much more mixed.
The best judges of whether or not young people get a good deal in their local area must surely be young people themselves. That is why a key part of the Positive for Youth strategy is the need for an effective and loud youth voice. I have asked every local authority in the country to identify a group of young people locally. They may be youth mayors, members of the UK Youth Parliament, youth cabinet members, none of those or even a combination of them. Such groups could be legitimately said to represent the voices and concerns of young people in their communities. They would be able to conduct an audit of the youth offer in their area and have it taken seriously, published on the local authority’s website or presented to a council meeting. We will collate those findings and flag up where certain local areas are doing well and where others are not. Surely, that is the best way to find out whether or not young people are getting a good deal and to do something about areas with a weakness.
The Committee Chairman also mentioned the outcomes framework. The further response that we gave to the Committee—we have done this in the past few months—stated that my Department is funding the Catalyst consortium
“to develop its outcomes framework with the ambition that it will become an ‘industry standard’ common language with which to measure and demonstrate the impact of provision.”
We have also been working with the Young Foundation, which is part of the Catalyst consortium, to develop the outcomes framework, which is a matrix of tools that will help youth organisations to demonstrate their impact on outcomes for young people.
The interesting problem with this work is how to prove a negative. This is something else that goes to the heart of what Positive for Youth is all about—it says it on the tin. Too often in the past, we have judged whether or not we are doing well for young people in terms of preventatives and negatives. We ask questions such as “How many young people have we prevented from going to youth offender institutions? How many teenage pregnancies have we prevented? How many young people are not in the youth justice system?” Those questions are all based on negatives and preventatives, so it is not surprising that they exacerbate the negative images of young people that the media too often present. I want to achieve—this is why we have asked the Catalyst consortium to consider the issue—an aspirational, positive measure of outcomes that assesses what we are doing for young people on the basis of what they achieve, their educational success and a version of the Prime Minister’s well-being index.
It is hugely difficult to put together something that is meaningful, measureable and practical, but I am determined to do that and to replace the negatives with something positive and aspirational. It will take a while to come up with something that does not just consist of words that are relatively meaningless.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) made a number of points on a wide range of issues. It is a shame that she was not present when I gave evidence to the Committee on the national citizen service and on Positive for Youth. Had she been present, she would have received answers to some of the questions that she has asked today.
The hon. Lady was right to say that part of the problem with youth work is that there is no real job description for it. I know that one of the Committee’s frustrations was the failure of often well-established youth organisations to make a positive, strong case for what constitutes good youth work and a good youth worker. The sector does not do itself any favours. I have seen some fantastic youth workers making a huge difference to young people—often from disadvantaged backgrounds—throughout the country. I wish that we could bottle that work, define it and replicate it more.
That is why Positive for Youth is littered with case studies of youth organisations, local authorities and young people themselves doing some really good stuff in different parts of the country. I want to disseminate best practice and we also need to find a way to disseminate good youth work. I know that the Select Committee Chairman is as frustrated as I am that the Committee’s report did not suggest a blueprint for how to promote good youth work practice. The sector has received that message, which is why Fiona Blacke and the National Youth Agency are working on whether we should have a professional body of youth workers and on how we can increase the standing, gravitas and perceptions of youth workers.
The hon. Lady mentioned reliance on different sources of funding. During my evidence to the Committee—she was not present—I referred to a heavy reliance on “slugs of public money”. My point was not that there is too much or too little public money going to youth services, but that those services have relied disproportionately on public money in the past. A degree of reform in a range of other public services has resulted in a mixed economy of provision based on different revenue sources, but youth services are too often heavily reliant on money from local government, whether it comes via central Government or elsewhere. There is a whole range of other providers, but there is still a heavy reliance on public money, so when public finances are tight, youth services get hit disproportionately. Frankly, the situation has not changed dramatically since the Albemarle report 50 years ago, which effectively established youth services.
The hon. Lady gave a good example from her own constituency of the upcoming Wigan youth zone and the contribution of Martin Ainscough, whom I have met several times. He is a fantastic philanthropist and has put together a fantastic case, as have other members of the OnSide charity, which is responsible for four Myplace centres in the north-west. The charity’s genesis was in the Bolton lads and girls club, which is one of the best—if not the best—youth centres in the country, if not the world. Martin works with Dave Whelan, who is another benefactor of the project. It did not qualify for Myplace funding, because it submitted its bid after the funding round had finished, unlike the other four Myplace centres, most of which have opened—I opened one in Carlisle—and are doing some fantastic work. The Wigan example did not, therefore, get any national public money, but it is going ahead because of some contribution from the local authority and generous contributions from Martin Ainscough, Dave Whelan and other businesses.
Martin runs a private business, which, as the hon. Lady knows, is a big employer in Wigan and has been there for many years. He rightly sees himself as part of the local community and as having a corporate, social responsibility to it. He has identified a mutual benefit of a Myplace-style youth centre—I am hugely supportive of such centres and will come on to them in a moment—whereby his employees spend time volunteering to help out there. His employees’ sons and daughters will benefit from the centre’s facilities, and he may well end up employing some of them. He will help to provide training facilities. It is not just a place for youth leisure activities, but a meeting place for training and education, personal and social development, and all sorts of other things. That is being achieved regardless of the availability of a big pot of money from central Government funds. The model is hugely successful. The Myplace centres—which are based on the OnSide model—that will thrive most of all are those that become self-sustaining and encourage a host of other providers that use social enterprises, businesses and the voluntary sector to become self-sustaining, too. Wigan is a fantastic example of where it can work.
I am particularly keen on other forms of funding for youth organisations—I have been encouraged and we have some brokerage work to help with this—through the social investment bank. We have put some money into a consortium led by NCB and Business in the Community to act as a brokerage to encourage new sources of funding for youth organisations that are looking to promote such projects.
The hon. Lady also mentioned the problem of having 27 different sources of funding and having to account for them all, which is, of course, complete nonsense. That needs to be streamlined and we are streamlining the accountability frameworks. However, those 27 sources of funding may be, as with many projects I have visited, all from different public sources of finance—Department of Health, Home Office or Department for Education projects. Even if they were 100% funded, they would not be from one pot of money that requires one report, one accountability framework and one inspection a year, but 27 funds with potentially 27 reports. That is nonsense that we need to streamline, but it happens in the public sector just as much as it will happen if we have multiple sources of funding from private voluntary and social enterprise sectors, too.
Will the Minister tell us how he would streamline that, because I am sure that if we talked to Ministers 10 years ago they would have said the same thing, and five years ago they would have said the same thing? Whoever was in government, they would have said the same thing. We need practical ways of making it happen. For example, will he speak to his colleagues in the Cabinet Office to try to ensure that we get streamlining?
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), who has responsibility for civil society, has been working with many voluntary organisations, charities and others to reduce bureaucracy. I have been working with the inspectorates. Many organisations in the youth and education sector in relation to children’s social care will be inspected by as many as six inspectorates. That is clearly nonsense, clearly overlapping, and clearly causes huge amounts of chaos for the outfit being inspected. I spent a morning with children’s services in Birmingham, which were about to have another inspection.
We are now making good progress. Indeed, the Chair of the Select Committee may wish to call me to give evidence on joint inspections in one of his inquiries. For the first time—I have had them all around the table in my office—we are making some real progress. That must be the way to go. We need to ensure that organisations that do good stuff for young people and children are able to get on with the job of providing those activities, rather than having to spend every other day being beholden to inspectors in a very bureaucratic manner.
I am grateful for that answer, which addressed inspection, but perhaps not accountability. I know that the Cabinet Office has considered how we can use digital platforms to deliver Government for less and more effectively. I wonder whether small charities and youth services could have one website where everyone comes together to say what they want—or at least are able to go to one place—which provides one set of accounting for themselves in a way that answers the questions that are collectively required by all those who fund them.
I think that the sum of the bureaucracy around small charities in particular is already being addressed. I just referenced the work that we are doing with Business in the Community, NCB and that consortium to provide a portal for organisations that need funding, advice on how to get leverage on the funds and resources available, and on how to partner up different organisations. That is what we are trying to create in that brokerage, and I think that that addresses the concern.
There have been quite a lot of myths about national citizen service. It has been covered disproportionately, at least in the press releases relating to the Committee’s report. I would be more than happy if the Committee produced a discrete report on national citizen service that was based on the evidence that we are amassing from people who have already been on it, and based on actually going on the projects and seeing the young people and the providers. The Chair of the Select Committee has met some of his local providers, and I think he was impressed by what he saw.
Let me first say what national citizen service is not. It is not just some six week summer camp—that is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is all about. National citizen service is about a life-changing experience that starts with a two-and-a-half week window, mostly over the summer, with young people going on an outward bound type course and being thrown in at the deep end—quite literally in many cases. It gets people together from different sides of the tracks socially and ethnically—kids who have been in the youth justice system, kids from independent schools, kids with disabilities. It mixes them all up and they have to rely on each other and understand each other. It is about a rite of passage as well. Anybody who has been through the national citizen service course and graduated—it is not a walk in the park; it needs to be stretching and it needs to be challenging—has earned the right to be treated more as an adult. It is about engaging those young people with society in the longer term. It is about getting them embarked on volunteering activities. It is about getting them to develop their social action project, which they start up as part of the summer experience, and which will hopefully run for months, if not years, after that, in collaboration with other local youth organisations, the local council and local businesses.
I want thousands of signs around the country that read, “National citizen service project initiated by, run by, managed by, inspired by young people”, so that even some of the most cynical people in our society, who think that every teenager is a potential hoodie-wearing mugger, will have to say, “Wow, there is some really good stuff going on in my town, my village, my community, my city, and it is being led by young people.” That is what national citizen service is all about.
I do not recognise some of the figures in the report that have been attached to national citizen service, simply because they are not figures that we have calculated ourselves. We are in the middle of a pilot. We are evolving the scheme. We have made a number of changes since we started the pilots. We will be rolling out 30,000 places this summer, and there will be some variations. Some will be run over a series of extended weekends for those who cannot commit for the summer. There will be some pilots in Northern Ireland, because this will be a UK-wide exercise.
I am grateful to the Minister for resiling from his earlier remarks about the disproportionate attention the report paid to the NCS, because in six chapters I think that half a chapter deals with it. It is also worth noting that, at the time, it was the only youth policy the Government had, but none the less we looked more widely. The Minister says that he does not recognise the figures in our report—a statement consistently made by the Government about our figures. However, the Government have not provided us with their own. Will he please do so now?
We could not possibly come out with a total figure for complete roll-out because we have not remotely reached total roll-out. We are getting economies of scale. We spent approximately £13.5 million. In addition, some philanthropic and other money came in. We are being approached by people who want to add money, on top of the Government money. We are considering converting it into a contractual scheme. We will then start to have some long-term estimates of the amount of money involved. Simply to do an extrapolation of the costs in the first year, which are likely to be the highest and will gradually come down, and come up with a figure of 50%, and then come up with this figure is, I have to say, disingenuous. It is also slightly disingenuous and unfair of the Chair to say that I am dwelling disproportionately on NCS. The point I made earlier was that his press release, the headline, how this report, which contains some really good stuff, was launched, was all about NCS affecting one year out of the 13 to 25-year-old cohort.
It is also not fair to say that, at the time my hon. Friend mentioned, the Government had no other youth policies. Let me remind him that in the teeth of the toughest spending round that we have had, we secured for the Department for Education £141 million of capital to fund the remainder of the 63 Myplace projects, which is an excellent scheme started by the previous Government. We ensured that the outstanding projects had financial sustainability, which some earlier ones did not have. That important youth policy, again, did not feature greatly in the report, which is a shame, because it is doing some fantastic stuff.
Last week I was in Lincoln, speaking at the Myplace network conference, seeing some fantastic examples of how Myplace centres are being used as hubs of youth activity in local communities and, particularly, focusing on how we deal with what are commonly called NEETs, which is a derogatory term. I prefer the term GREETs: getting ready for education, employment and training. Those will be centres for the youth contract, for organisations to come in and do their training, and where we can get some of the more difficult-to-reach young people into some form of employment, education and training.
Myplace centres are key to the Government’s youth—and Positive for Youth—policy. I should have liked them to feature in this report. If the Chairman of the Select Committee would like to rectify that by doing a study into Myplace centres, I should be more than happy to co-operate and give him all the resources he needs.
I am sure that the Minister would like to see those things, but he is misrepresenting the purpose of the Select Committee. I understand that its purpose is to scrutinise Government business, not publicise the things that the Government want us to publicise or even to report on things that the Minister would like us to.
I have said that I respect the Select Committee and that I encourage it to study youth services and anything to do with young people. In my opening remarks I said that, whatever I may like, or not, in the Committee’s report, I welcome it. However, the report was about out-of-school activities for 13 to 25-year-olds. Myplace centres cater for out-of-school activities for that cohort and more; they were in place in part under the previous Government and money was secured for their expansion under this Government when the report was being prepared. Why did they not feature in the report? That is my point. Whether the Committee wanted to criticise them or be positive about them, they should have featured as another example of what the Government are trying to do, then the Committee could have said whether the Government needed to do better or to do it differently. Are we wasting £141 million? Why just talk about wasting £13.5 million on the national citizen service when we are wasting more than 10 times that—if that is the Committee’s view—on Myplace?
The Minister is wrestling with his understanding of what the Select Committee is for. The purpose of the inquiry was to focus on youth services. Perhaps we could address what the report contains. Can the Minister share with hon. Members the numbers, which we know are far from definitive, on the national citizen service? This Government are committed to transparency and openness, not least on public expenditure. Could we have some of that today on the NCS as it stands to date—and the Minister’s best understanding?
The Committee conducted an inquiry into the provision of services beyond the school/college day for young people, primarily those aged 13 to 25. That takes in a whole host of things, of which I mentioned Myplace, which cost £141 million—substantially more than the amount that has been spent, or will be spent for some years, on the NCS. I have told my hon. Friend that last year it cost some £13.5 million. The budget for this year, if we provide 30,000 places as we are looking to do, will be roughly triple that, but hopefully it will a bit less because we will get some economies of scale.
Depending on how we evolve the pilot—we are genuinely learning from it and adapting it by reference to all our partners with expertise in this regard—it may become a shorter experience in the summer, which would reduce the costs, or there may be different ways of doing it. To say that it will cost £300 million, or whatever, in a few years is entirely illusory, because I do not know how many people will be doing it.
There is a fundamental misconception here. The money is not coming from the Department for Education or from a youth budget and would not otherwise be going into youth services. The money for the national citizen service is going into youth services. This money is not being used to fund some army of central Government people; it is being provided by a host of youth organisations—the Prince’s Trust, the Football League Trust, Catch22, Groundwork and the National Youth Agency—doing youth work now. If that money were not going into the NCS through a direct funding stream from the Treasury, it would not be going into youth work. That is why I cannot understand why the Committee is not welcoming these growing resources going into a youth activity. One only has to speak to the people who have done such activity, read the surveys that we have conducted, and look at the serious work that is being done, to see its efficacy and that it is having a positive impact.
The list of names that the Minister read sounded strangely familiar, because those organisations gave evidence to the Committee for our report, saying that the network of support for young people, which already exists and is so highly valued, is disintegrating in front of our eyes. I have to say that the Minister is starting to sound somewhat delusional, because we were overwhelmed with evidence from those organisations and young people, saying that they are losing much valued, highly regarded services now. In the time that he has left, out of respect to the young people who use those services, will the Minister tell us what he is going to do to stop that happening?
The hon. Lady ignores the fact that a host of youth organisations has come forward to provide national citizen service places, because they think it is a good thing to do and think that they have the expertise. In particular, we are using a host of smaller providers with real expertise in engaging with more difficult-to-engage young people, including young people who have been in the youth justice system and young people from various black and minority ethnic communities, who are not necessarily easy to engage in some youth services. Those people value it.
I do not know whether the hon. Lady went to the NCS providers in her locality, but I ask her to speak to some of those young people and to come to some presentations, such as the ones we have done with them, and see the value that they place on it.
I cannot give hon. Members a figure for what NCS will ultimately cost when we go to full roll-out, and I do not know how soon roll-out will be or what it will be, but we will not compromise the quality of this service. An absolutely key point in that regard is the fact that it is a high-quality service that is, for the young people who go on it, a life-changing experience about personal and social development.
The Minister is generous in giving way, but I am still at a slight loss as to why he is so hostile. Our job is to probe this. We did not say it would cost that much. We said that, if it was scaled up at the current cost, it would cost the amount we stated, and we did so precisely to invite—we hoped—a polite, respectful response from the Ministry about what it thought it might move towards.
Derek Twine, chief executive of the Scout Association, noted that
“for the same cost per head that the NCS is anticipating spending in the first tranche of pilots we could provide two or three years’ worth of the experience, week by week, for young people in the same age range”.
Evidence of that sort led us to probe the matter, hoping that we would get a proper, civil response from the Government in due course.
That is a strange thing for the chief executive of the Scout Association to say, because it relies on no public money at all, so why is he saying that he could use that money for something else? The Scout Association is completely different.
We want NCS to be the recruiting sergeant for the Scouts, the Air Training Corps, the Army cadets and all sorts of youth organisations. They are not there to recruit people for NCS; they are recruiting people for community-minded organisations that are doing great stuff in their local communities—and the Scouts and Guides just happen to be two such organisations.
I am not sure what to do, because I have not actually started the speech before me. I will try, however, to deal with some of the points made by members of the Select Committee. I ought to give my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) a look-in, because she has had the courtesy to stay throughout the proceedings. She made a number of points, in particular about transport and its availability to convey young people to certain facilities, notably in rural areas. That is exactly why I welcome the work of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, which we are now helping to fund, in setting up a select committee on transport, this year’s favoured UKYP campaign. I have hosted some round-table meetings, one involving the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), on transport to schools and other educational facilities and on transport for young people. I am particularly sympathetic when 16-year-olds complain, quite rightly, that they have to pay adult fares on buses and public transport. I want to find solutions to ensure that we are not laying on facilities that the very people whom we want to access them are prevented from doing so because of transport logistics.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wells also mentioned social mobility and mental disorders. Having seen some good examples, I can recognise a good youth organisation —a feeling of belonging, I think she said—which can give people confidence that they have a place in society, helping their health, and not least their mental health. The problem has been under-appreciated, with one school-age child in 10 suffering from some form of mental illness, so I welcome the Government’s paper “No health without mental health”, which has, for the first time, placed mental health on a level playing field with physical health. We need to ensure that they are getting the right interventions—early and appropriate—which in too many cases they are not. That is an important part of youth engagement as well.
Is the Minister also cognisant of the fact that people who have mental health problems when they are very young almost invariably go on to have significant mental health problems later on in life? That is at enormous cost to society and, eventually, to the state through the health services and every other way.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s point.
I had better quickly mention the hon. Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass), who made some good and legitimate points, although she also said that she was present to “verbally duff up” the Minister. I am not entirely sure that that is why we hold our debates. We are having a full and frank exchange of views, and a constructive engagement on an important subject.
The hon. Lady mentioned the real problem of young people not in education, employment or training. Ensuring that our young people are engaged in some way is probably the single biggest challenge that we face as a society, which is why the youth contract—that £1 billion investment—is so important. An extra £123 million has been earmarked for 16 and 17-year-olds, for the 55,000 of that age group who do not have good GCSEs. They will now be engaged through that part of the youth contract that is about to be tendered.
Initial expressions of interest—by a whole range of voluntary organisations and others, in particular those with expertise in young people—have been exceedingly encouraging. It is not only, “Here’s a young person, get them into a job,” but getting a young person to know what a job is all about—giving help with, for example, personal presentation, writing a CV, doing interviews or turning up at 9 o’clock for the training exercise or whatever is required. That is why it is so important to use those organisations with expertise in dealing with young people, from whatever sector—using Myplace centres and other facilities—to ensure that we try to give those 16 and 17-year-olds a decent chance to go back into education properly, if they have dropped out earlier; get on a meaningful training scheme, or apprenticeship; or get into some sustainable employment. The organisations will be paid for that on a payment-by-results basis, so this is not just a short-term displacement scheme; it is about sustainability.
I will deal with one last point made by the hon. Lady before I sit down to give a right of response to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness, the Chairman of the Select Committee. Some of the payment for the national citizen service was mentioned in the report, and that is a legitimate area of debate, because fewer than half of the providers last year levied a charge, and half of those in turn made it a refundable charge when the young person turned up. What we have said, and what is part of the tendering process for those who come forward to offer such places, is that charging should be done in such a way that no young person is deterred from an NCS course by financial considerations. The course needs to have a value, however, and what some of the research shows is that for those providers that levied a charge, in particular if refundable, people turned up and valued the course more. That is purely about ensuring that people do not feel, “Oh, I can sign up, it doesn’t cost me anything,” and that they need not bother to turn up—so they turn up and value it, making the most of the experience. If it turns out that that is discouraging people, we have pilots to inform how we roll out NCS in future.
We could have discussed a range of issues and a range of related things that I hope the Select Committee will return to on youth services and youth affairs generally. They are among the most important things that we deal with in Parliament, because they are one of the best investments that we can make. Therefore, I have unashamedly named and shamed local authorities, and will continue to do so, if they are being short-sighted, cutting disproportionately or not seeing the bigger picture on youth services. Positive for Youth is about ensuring that young people are empowered to have a strong voice to point that out. They are the most important customers of youth services and they must have the loudest voice about where we are doing well and where we are not.
With the leave of the House, it is a pleasure to serve—if one serves in this Chamber—and to debate under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I am grateful to all those who have participated in the debate. More than half the members of the Select Committee were present today, and we had excellent speeches from the hon. Members for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and for North West Durham (Pat Glass), from the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), from my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) and for Wells (Tessa Munt) and from the Minister himself.
We have repeatedly put one question, so although the Minister might be breathing a sigh of relief on ending his speech, I ask him, if possible, to respond now or to write to me about how much is being spent on youth services. There was a line in the Government books that they used for years to say how much they were spending on youth services, but when we quoted it the Government and the Minister said, “That number is completely wrong.” What is the right number? Where do we look to find it?
Under the local authority returns, to which my hon. Friend is privy and which I thought he had used, the spending on combined youth services for 2009-10 came to a total of £1.104 billion—spent on services to young people, such as positive activities, information, advice and guidance, teen pregnancies, substance misuse and specific youth work.
I am grateful to the Minister. The figure that we used was provided by Select Committee staff from Government figures, which I understand had been used for many years. That sounds like a different figure. Is that because of the early intervention grant, and pooling it? Can the Minister throw any other light on the matter, because it does not seem to fit with our understanding?
The Committee will look forward to pursuing that further with the Minister, but if it is a correction I am grateful for it.
The purpose of our inquiry was to recognise that so many youth services struggle to show their impact—we criticised them for that and also sympathised with them because of the impossibility of doing so—but we know anecdotally from young people that those services are important. We wanted to provide a platform for youth services to be heard to ensure that time was found to focus on them. We hoped that the process of conducting the inquiry would make it less likely that ill-thought-out and disproportionate cuts would be made by local authorities in a tough situation—caused by the profligate behaviour of the previous Government, to reinforce the Minister’s point and to make a tiny rebuttal of so many partisan remarks from Opposition Members.
Despite the Minister’s occasional tetchiness at our probing—
I say “occasional”, but we are working together, and the Minister is committed. One of the best things that the Prime Minister is doing for the governance of this country is keeping Ministers in place for a decent period, at least so far. Notwithstanding the Minister’s tetchiness, I hope that Ministers remain in office for longer periods, because that will lead to better understanding of the issues with which they are wrestling. Select Committees, which probe and challenge, and write reports such as ours, do so because they care about the issues. I hope that any heat, as well as light, that we might generate will strengthen the Minister’s arm. I know that he is personally committed to the matter, and works tremendously hard to look after the interests of our young people.
Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(11)).