Skip to main content

Youth Services Provision

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 19 November 2014

We are working to offer practical support to the youth sector at a time when local authorities continue to make difficult decisions on how to deliver services. Our support focuses on promoting delivery models for innovative services, including mutuals, and better measurement of the impact of youth services on the lives of young people.

Last week, BBC Look North revealed that more than £30 million had been cut from youth services across Yorkshire—deep cuts that had been forced on councils by the disproportionate reduction in local authority funding for areas with the highest need. What discussions is the Minister having with colleagues in other Departments about the impact of those cuts on young people?

I am slightly surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman’s criticisms, because I did not notice his campaigning in Sheffield on the cuts made by his local authority and I could not find a single letter that he has written to the Department about those cuts. Sheffield city council is one of 10 local authorities that are co-operating with the Government to transform youth services using the new delivery models that we are talking about. I would add that we are working with the youth sector to launch the centre for social impact, which will make it much easier for the youth sector to justify the things that it does and to get the buy-in of local authorities to keep those services going.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Gavin Pardoe and his team, who have accessed finance from the Charity Bank, Sport England and many other sources to build a magnificent new skate and BMX park in Stourbridge that opens next week?

I do indeed join in congratulating Gavin Pardoe and the able team that supported him. I understand that it is a state-of-the-art skate park that will draw in people from right across the west midlands. I also congratulate my hon. Friend on her role in bringing it about. It sounds like a wonderful facility for young people in the area.

The Minister will know that youth provision is not statutory provision, and that it is therefore vulnerable to local authority cuts. He will perhaps have seen the early-day motion that has been signed by Members from throughout the House, suggesting that there should be positive discussions now about making youth services a statutory provision.

I have seen the hon. Gentleman’s early-day motion, and we believe in supporting a statutory position, but it is important that local authorities have the right to make decisions about their local area. The Government do not wish to be too prescriptive in directing local authorities on what they should and should not do. For that reason, we do not support his early-day motion.

In my constituency, the Cedars youth centre, which is a partnership between Watford football club, Harrow council and the Government, is an extremely successful example of how youth services can be transformed. Does my hon. Friend agree that such a service is the way forward for youth services, and would he like to visit the centre and see for himself the excellent work that is being done?

I can feel a number of visits to hon. Members’ constituencies coming on. I congratulate my hon. Friend’s council on the work that it is doing. It is possible to innovate and make youth services even better and more efficient, so we do not have to accept the Opposition’s counsel of despair.

11. The National Audit Office has said today in a report on local government funding cuts that the Government fail to monitor the impact of funding reductions on local services. The report into the exploitation of girls in Rotherham cited youth workers as repeatedly having raised serious concerns—they were often the only people to do so—which shows that youth workers are often the only dependable adult in vulnerable children’s lives. Will the Minister assure me that he will monitor carefully the impact of local government cuts to youth services and the effects on child safety, and report his findings back to the House? (906084)

Obviously the Rotherham child sex abuse case is complex, and most of the responsibility for the matter lies within the Department for Education, but the hon. Lady makes a good point. It is important that we all learn lessons across Government, and the Cabinet Office is as keen as any other Department to do so.