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Youth Services

Volume 549: debated on Monday 3 September 2012

11. What steps his Department is taking to reform youth services to meet the needs of local communities. (118472)

Positive for Youth set out for the first time an over-arching vision for youth policy. One of the key principles of its vision is for local leadership and greater partnership in the delivery of services for young people. Local authorities are best placed to decide how best to shape their services, and their duty to secure sufficient services is outlined in revised statutory guidance which we issued back in June. This Government have invested an additional £141 million in a network of 63 Myplace youth centres to support local youth service provision as well.

Will the Minister comment on my local authority’s plans for the youth service? It is cutting its budget by half, closing four of the seven permanent youth clubs to obtain their sites for market sale, and now plans to sell free-for-use sports pitches in a public park to a private company for commercial letting.

Given the hon. Gentleman’s record on accounting for supposed children’s centres closures in his constituency, which turned out not to be the case, one needs to scrutinise some of his comments rather more closely. What I do know is that there is some very innovatory work going on in the youth field between the three boroughs in the tri-borough experiment. [Interruption.] Within the hon. Gentleman’s own constituency, in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, they are leading the way in youth innovation zones, showing new, practical, innovatory ways of bringing services to young people that they need and will use. [Interruption.] He should go and visit them.

There is plenty of scope for an Adjournment debate on this matter, to judge by responses so far.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Ifield youth services on providing a broader range of services to younger people through voluntary sector involvement? Does he agree that voluntary sector and faith involvement in providing youth services is extremely important for local communities?

My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. We share the same local authority—West Sussex—where there is some innovatory practice in youth services, provided not just by the local authority but in partnership with punchy voluntary organisations which know what young people want and can engage with them and make sure that they are engaging with useful services that will aid their well-being, which is what youth services are all about.

We already know from parliamentary answers that youth services have suffered a disproportionately large cut in public expenditure, but last month the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action released a report which found that its members had experienced a drop of around a fifth of total expenditure, 40% of them making redundancies, and that children’s and young people’s organisations were being disproportionately hit. As the Minister has expressed concern about local authorities disproportionately cutting youth and children’s services, what precise steps is he taking to make sure that local authorities and the voluntary and community organisations that he rightly praises are not targeting youth services for a larger share of cuts?

The hon. Lady makes my point. I have expressed my concern about the disproportionate effect—in some cases— on youth services that some short-sighted local authorities have exercised. That is why we consulted on and revised the statutory guidance which we issued back in June, and why also, at the core of Positive for Youth—the most comprehensive policy, which her Government never even attempted—are those best placed to have a voice and scrutinise the value of their youth offer: young people themselves. That is why I am about giving a voice to young people and making sure that they have a place at the top table in the town hall—something that her Government never gave young people.