Youth and Community Workers and Outsourcing

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2010 Local Government Service Group Conference
18 February 2010
Carried as Amended

Conference is very concerned about the effects of the recession on young people and their high unemployment rate. The mental health of young people suffered greatly in the 1980s recession. According to UNICEF, children and young people growing up in the UK suffer greater deprivation, worse relationships with their parents and are exposed to more risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex than any other wealthy nation in the world. The University of York study on the well being of children in the UK also reports that a range of health indicators for children and young people have taken a downward trend. LGBT and Black young people are particularly affected, with discrimination leading to disproportionately high rates of self harm and suicide for these young people. LGBT and Black young people living in rural areas can also experience increased levels of isolation and loneliness.

Youth and Community work has a vital role to play in strategies aimed at tackling disaffection, securing regeneration and dealing with social exclusion and discrimination. Yet there is a continuing struggle to get local authorities to appreciate the value of youth work. Conference notes that youth and community services are non statutory and as such are vulnerable to budget cuts. Widespread cuts to youth service are being made and youth workers are fighting to protect everyday services. Vital services tailored to specific groups, such as LGBT and Black young people, are often even more vulnerable to cuts.

Conference believes that the future challenge will be to retain local authorities as the main employer of the youth workforce. Government and opposition parties are united in accepting the conventional wisdom that spending cuts are inevitable. Both major parties have stated their commitment to outsourcing as a means of cutting public spending with consequent threats to both the quality and diversity of youth service provision and our members’ pay and conditions.

The Conservatives also have an ideological commitment to outsourcing and are on record in saying that youth services could be more effective if they ceased to be council run. The suggestion that volunteers can fill the gap of paid staff is nonsense. The emphasis on volunteering ignores the need for infrastructure for the recruitment, training and support of volunteers. The reality is that volunteers are not a cheap option. Strategy proposals which are mainly about budget reductions may mean that services effectively cease. UNISON is concerned that there may be no thought or analysis of what the proposals will mean and no contact with potential agencies to see if they are in a position to take over the service.

At a time of great difficulty for young people UNISON needs to assert the key importance of youth work and make the link that cuts in youth provision lead to increases elsewhere such as in health and policing. Youth and community services need to be properly resourced, relevant to the needs of all young people, underpinned by statute and staffed by decently paid well motivated professional youth and community workers.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to campaign for

1)Youth services to be put on a statutory footing, directly controlled by local authorities and by local authorities Children and Young People’s Partnerships

2)Work with other unions to oppose the outsourcing of youth services and through UNISON’s One Million Voices campaign highlight the value and worth of youth services and those who work in them.

3)Lobby local authorities and national government to provide mainstream services that are inclusive of, and tailored services that are specific to, LGBT and Black young people, including those living in rural areas.