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View from the Street: putting resources into youth service must be welcomed

PUBLISHED: 08:30 17 March 2019

Kevin Jenkins

The increasing recognition of the need for a statutory National Youth Service is welcome, albeit long overdue.

The new found recognition must lead to new investment now, if the damage that under investment in the pre austerity years and the swathing cuts in an already inadequate service during austerity have done is to be halted and gradually repaired. The recognition by both the London and Newham mayors of the importance of youth services and actually putting resources into youth service must be welcomed and applauded.

My concern is the focus on youth services rather than a young peoples service. Traditionally youth services tendered to cater for 12-year-olds up to the late teens, while play services tended to offer clubs for the under 11s – often reflecting the change from primary and secondary education.

Play services have virtually become extinct over the last 10 years, being seen as a non-statutory luxury rather than a valuable early intervention service for young people – offering through play, personal, social and educational development opportunities – which they have been proven to be.

As the play services have declined, the ages when young people are experiencing negative influences, distractions and in many situations serious risk and danger are well evidenced as to be getting younger and younger.

More and more the vital interventions, support and personal resilience building opportunities provided by youth services, enhancing the work of schools and colleges in two, three or more years too late for many young people.

We need to invest in a truly comprehensive universal statutory young peoples service, complementing the education and young peoples health services, responding to the needs of young people as they are needed rather than responding to such needs within preconceived age bands, which are often meaningless to the young people themselves.

Central, regional and local government need to act together not to make the difference.

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