MP - Brighton Kemptown and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs
Britain was the leader of open access universal youth work and youth services, the charity sector developed into a life-transforming statutory service across the country. Under the last few governments this service has been undermined, target driven, under resourced and now destroyed in large swaths of the UK, youth work is no more. When I started working at the National Youth Agency in the early 2000’s we had hundreds of staff, produced standards and publications for all aspects of youth work – a base which is unthinkable today, and what of the young people that we used to serve? They have been left to hang on street-corners, we see an explosion of knife crime, and young people’s prospects are worse than they have ever been. Mental health, physical activity, connection to local communities, all gone. This was not by accident, councils (who funded much of the local youth work) had their budgets slashed and all they needed to ensure is that there was some sort of youth activity, that could be one day a week of a local cadet force for 30 kids, no open access youth work, no preventative outreach or detached youth work, no requirement to monitor the quality or suitability of the provision and most importantly nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to speak to for young people in our cities and towns up and down the land. Town hall bosses between a rock and a hard place told young people to speak to their teachers, but schools equally over-stretched and under-resourced were never going to be able to pick up the pieces and now youth services are almost dead. That’s why colleagues and myself want to see it rise from the ashes. I want to see my trade valued and most importantly young people given a right to be able to access youth provision and services evey day of the week in every town and city around the country. Statutory services delivered to meet the needs of the whole community, with young people, voluntary organisations, council-employed JNC youth workers and councillors planning and running integrated youth services with a legal duty to do so. Colleagues and I are working on a bill to achieve that vision, so as to allow youth work to rise like a phoenix and to ensure that England (for the devastation has been worst in England) is again the envy of the world and has a service that keeps young people safe and our communities cohesive.
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