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Paper 5 - 23 September 2005 Meeting

HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

23 September 2005

GREEN PAPER - YOUTH MATTERS

Report by Director of Children’s Services, Hampshire County Council in association with the Chief Executives’ Group and Connexions Service

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RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended that the Association:

(1) Welcomes "Youth Matters" and the emphasis it places on local authorities taking a lead in enabling young people to achieve their potential and make a positive contribution society;

(2) Welcomes the proposals to establish an Opportunities Fund and a Capital Fund, whilst pressing the Government to confirm that the allocation of £30,000 per local authority will be made to each District Council area;

(3) Considers whether any of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight authorities would wish to pilot the proposed Opportunity Card, apart from Havant Borough Council which has already offered;

(4) Confirms its commitment to a participative approach to the development, delivery and evaluation of services for young people, involving statutory and voluntary sector agencies in the children’s trusts;

(5) Resolves to work towards the devolution of funding for Information Advice and Guidance from Connexions to Hampshire County Council and the three Unitary Authorities with effect from April 2007;

(6) Resolves to establish and maintain ways of providing Information, Advice and Guidance which recognise the flow of young people across local authority boundaries;

(7) Resolves to explore ways - through the new Directors of Children’s Services, the Chief Executives’ Group and the Community Safety Chief Officers’ Group - to provide integrated youth support services which establish clear lines of accountability whilst recognising the contribution of many agencies to this work; and

(8) Communicates its decisions at this stage to the LGA, to partners and to the Government Office for the South East.

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SUMMARY

The Government’s Green Paper "Youth Matters" seeks responses by 4 November. This report provides a summary of the proposals and recommendations which - subject to Members’ views - can be used to guide individual authorities’ and partners’ responses. They can also be used to guide implementation because the Government seems set to implement the broad proposals in the coming year.

It should be noted that many partners will be making responses - for example the Hampshire Children and Young People Partnership is planning a conference on 14 September. Also many partners are engaged in capacity building arrangements affected by these proposals e.g. the voluntary sector through the Change Up programme.

INTRODUCTION

1. The Green Paper, Youth Matters, is drafted in the context of the Government’s policy "Every Child Matters" and the Department for Education and Skills 2004 five year plan. "Every Child Matters" led to the Children Act 2004 and the national "Change for Children" programme. The Green Paper sets out to reform existing services for young people in England and to create a modern system of support with the overall aim of ensuring all young people meet the five outcomes of "Every Child Matters" (being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; and achieving economic well being).

2. The challenge and opportunity for local authorities will be to ensure their local approach to "Change for Children" incorporates "Youth Matters" in the integration of universal and targeted services. "Youth Matters" has four key objectives:

(1) to engage more young people in positive activities and empower them to shape the services they receive;

(2) to encourage more young people to volunteer and become involved in their communities;

(3) to provide better information, advice and guidance to young people to help them make informed choices about their lives; and

(4) to provide better and more personalised intensive support for each young person who has serious problems or gets into trouble.

3. The Government’s approach to reforming support is based on six underpinning principles:

(1) making services more responsive to what young people and their parents want;

(2) balancing greater opportunities and support with promoting young people’s responsibilities;

(3) making services for young people more integrated, efficient and effective;

(4) improving outcomes for all young people, while narrowing the gap between those who do well and those who do not;

(5) involving a wide range of organisations from the voluntary, community and private sectors in order to increase choice and secure the best outcomes; and

(6) building on the best of what is currently provided.

4. Shire and Unitary Authorities, working through children’s trusts, will lead on developing an integrated youth support service. The paper confirms the responsibility of the County or Unitary authority to ensure that integrated services are delivered for all children and young people, through a range of commissioned and directly provided services. The responsibilities of the County and Unitary authorities are matched by the statutory "duty to co-operate" laid upon partner organisations, including District Councils, with new national standards which are to be produced. Subject to consultation and parliamentary timetables, amendment to the statutory basis will come into force in summer 2006.

5. Many parts of the "Youth Matters" proposals need further development. The Local Government Association is holding a conference with the National Youth Agency on 11 October for Children/Young People portfolio holders, District Council Leaders, Youth Offending Team Managers and others. The conference will explore the proposals in more detail and discuss such issues as implementation in two-tier areas.

MAIN PROPOSALS - with commentary

"Empowering young people: things to do and places to go"

(a) increasing participation

6. Young people should have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of positive activities in their leisure time. They should not only participate in activities, but also shape what is offered. The focus of the proposal is on how to engage those who do not currently participate in positive activities.

(b) "re-invigorate" youth work

7. The vital role youth work plays in encouraging young people is recognised. Shire and Unitary Authorities should continue to "re-invigorate" the youth service by building on the ideas set out in Transforming Youth Work. The voluntary sector already plays a valuable role in engaging young people in positive activities and "Youth Matters" provides further scope for developing its contribution.

(c) Opportunity Fund

8. A £30,000 Opportunity Fund will be set up in each local authority to spend on projects decided by young people. Nationally a £40m capital fund, established for two years, will provide strategic investment in new youth facilities. This will create an opportunity to develop and improve a range of innovative facilities for young people, although ongoing revenue funding will need to be secured. It is not clear from "Youth Matters" whether, in Hampshire, the £30,000 would apply to the County area or to each of the District Council areas.

(d) Opportunity Card

9. Incentives for young people to take part in a range of activities, including volunteering, will be encouraged through an Opportunity Card. Similar cards have had a mixed reception from young people and the initiative will be piloted in eight local authorities, which will determine how they can be made effective. Havant Borough Council has expressed an interest in this pilot.

(e) Sport

10. Support will be provided for older teenagers to take part in sporting activities by investing in a network of sports development officers. Sporting activities will build on existing initiatives as there are a number of programmes to support sport in schools and improve access to sports provision for teenagers. This area will also provide an excellent opportunity for closer working between the County Council and District Councils. The focus on increasing residential opportunities for young people will also build upon initiatives developed by the youth services, Connexions, voluntary organisations and the Hampshire County Council outdoor education unit, which provides a strong base to develop further opportunities.

(f) Involving Young People

11. The direct involvement of young people in the design, development, delivery and evaluation of services is now an expectation. This approach, and the principles of "Hear by Right", will need to be adopted by all services in the development of provision. The Hampshire Children and Young People Strategic Partnership participation strategy embraces this approach and there are examples of good practice in every local authority area which can provide the basis for embedding participation even more firmly.

(g) Involving Parents/Carers

12. "Youth Matters" also emphasises the importance of involving parents and carers in defining need and shaping services. There are already examples of good practice from the Children’s Fund in the involvement of families in service for younger children but it is less established for the 13-19 age group covered by "Youth Matters". Each children’s trust will need to give time to developing this work, drawing on the experience of the Children’s Fund.

"Young People as Citizens: making a contribution"

13. Young people are encouraged to volunteer and contribute to their communities. The proposals build on the outcomes of the Russell Commission and are seen as a way of developing a stronger sense of rights and responsibilities, to improve mutual understanding between young people and the wider community. The new body being established to implement the Russell Commission will be tasked to achieve a step change in the level of volunteering.

14. Peer mentoring, sustained civic service and a stronger culture of volunteering in schools, colleges and universities will be promoted. Rewards, with links to opportunity cards, are being explored to encourage young people to volunteer. £45m is pledged from the Treasury over three years to expand volunteering with a further £55m being attracted from the private sector.

15. The intrinsic value and learning to be gained from volunteering is laudable, however any compulsory nature built into the programme will lead to young people not engaging or being motivated for positive reasons. The balance between encouragement and compulsion will need to be carefully considered to find suitable rewards for genuine voluntary participation. All local authorities may provide a wide variety of opportunities to enrich volunteering opportunities for example through sports, arts and the environment.

"Supporting Choices - Information, Advice and Guidance"

16. The paper proposes devolving responsibility for commissioning information, advice and guidance (IAG) from the Connexions Service to local authorities, working through children’s trusts, schools and colleges, in order to promote integration with other local services. Linked to this, County and Unitary authorities would have responsibility to reduce the proportion of 16-18 year olds not in education, employment or training. These authorities are encouraged to preserve high-performing Connexions Services, and to retain the valued Connexions brand. They will be responsible for ensuring that young people not in education employment or training have access to a broader package of personalised support and advice. There will be clear minimum expectations of IAG provision and national standards will be developed. Existing online information services will be brought together to create a combined service.

17. Connexions has developed a broad definition of information, advice, guidance and support for young people incorporating both Careers IAG and more intensive support where needed. The future scope of IAG will be need to be considered by the children’s trusts, including its relationship with the new integrated support service described in paragraphs 22 and 23.

18. The funding currently allocated to Connexions will be transferred to County and Unitary Authorities not later than 2008/9. It is recommended that a target of 2007/08 would be appropriate for the four authorities in Hampshire/Isle of Wight. Work on Local Area Agreements and the production of the Children and Young People Plan in the County and Unitary areas will provide the basis for the transition.

19. Young people, particularly after the age of 16, move frequently across local authority boundaries for education and employment. As part of the preparation for the devolution of the Connexions funding, it will be helpful to consider how provision can be co-ordinated across local authority boundaries in future. One of the strengths of Connexions acknowledged in "Youth Matters" is the Connexions information system which keeps track of every young person aged 13 to 16 and this valuable resource should be maintained across the boundaries.

20. A focus is placed on young people’s health with all 12 to 13 year olds having a personal health MOT, which will be followed by appropriate advice.

21. A £20m fund will be established to train and support parents to prepare for the challenges young people face at transition. It is expected parents will need to be informed and supported, to be involved with young people’s decision making.

"All young people achieving: reforming targeted support"

22. Whilst most young people will achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes through universal services, the paper says that a "large minority" need specialist provision. An integrated youth support service is proposed for teenagers most at risk. County and Unitary authorities will be required to plan and commission targeted support as part of an integrated process covering all services for young people. A lead professional, acting as a single point of contact, is proposed for young people who need support from a range of services. Co-location of services is seen as a way of more efficiently facilitating multi-service support. County and Unitary authorities working through children’s trusts will lead the development of local plans for the delivery of a more integrated, effective and efficient support service.

23. The paper does not define the services making up an integrated youth support service and further exploration of the proposal is required. It is likely the service would include education welfare, learning mentors, youth workers, social workers, Connexions personal advisors, education psychologists, home-school link workers and community psychiatric nursing professionals. This approach should also incorporate staff working for voluntary organisations. The proposed youth support service will need to have clear lines of accountability and management, and support the development of services and organisational arrangements in hand to develop children’s services in each area.

"A reformed system: delivering the proposals"

24. The paper expects County and Unitary authorities, working through children’s trusts, to take the strategic lead and have the necessary funding, responsibility, resources and accountability to lead integrated planning and delivery of services to meet local needs. The County Council is expected to engage District Councils in discussions about future proposals. Funding streams will be rationalised with existing Department for Education and Skills ring-fenced grants including Connexions and teenage pregnancy strategies being pooled.

25. Pilots will be developed to test Opportunity Cards in eight authorities, working with the Russell Commission implementation body.

26. The local authority, through the children’s trust approach, will need to involve the voluntary and community sector as strategic partners in all aspects of planning, developing and delivering services. The County Council will need to work closely with District Councils in this area of work too.

27. Local partners will need to agree the balance between targeted and universal services, and make clear the distinctive roles of different professions and services.

28. A single qualifications framework for the children’s workforce will be developed, with the focus on skills and competencies underpinned by common core skills and knowledge.

29. Progress will be evaluated against the Every Child Matters outcomes framework. Where services for young people are found to have significant failings, local authorities and their partners would be expected to agree action for improvement with the Department for Education and Skills.

CONCLUSION

30. The increased responsibility proposed for local authorities will need adequate resources to ensure the aims of this Green Paper are achieved. The sums of money referred to (e.g. £30,000 for each local authority, paragraph 8) do not build confidence. Also the step-change in volunteering requires resources and capacity-building both in the statutory and voluntary sectors - finding and vetting opportunities, matching young people/skills to opportunities, accreditation, ensuring support within placement etc.

31. Duties and accountabilities, without sustained investment, will not lead to the reforms being translated from ideas into practice, or to the improvements in services sought. With this major caveat, the recommendations welcome the Government’s approach and seek to work in partnership to develop the proposals.

JOHN COUGHLAN

Director of Children’s Services, Hampshire County Council in association with the Chief Executives’ Group and the Chief Executive of Connexions South Central

Date: 8 September 2005
Annex: 0
Contacts: Malcolm Rittman, County Youth Officer - 01962 846370
                Email: malcolm.rittman@hants.gov.uk
                Nick Goulder - 023 8068 8431, E-mail hiow@eastleigh.gov.uk

Last update: 14/09/2005
Author: Nick Goulder, Director

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