Youth Services in Crisis

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2011 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2011
Carried as Amended

Conference is deeply concerned about the disproportionate level of cuts to youth provision in the statutory and voluntary sectors. The workforce is facing major redundancies and those workers who survive the cull are facing attacks on their pay and conditions. Losing the skills and expertise of youth and community workers made redundant will have a serious impact – not just on the direct delivery of projects – but on a whole range of neighbourhood partnerships that are making a real difference to communities and young people.

Support services for young people, however they are delivered, depend mainly on local authority funding. There is now a crisis as local authorities scale back or reconfigure their youth services. Services most affected are open access youth clubs and centres and universal provision for young people is disappearing fast as councils focus on targeted youth work. Some authorities such as Norfolk, Suffolk, Warwickshire and Manchester are going further and plan to abandon their entire service. In addition mutual social enterprise employee ownership models are being promoted for youth support services and may look attractive to members who feel council run services are no longer viable.

Conference firmly believes that at a time of mass youth unemployment, cuts to young people’s services are a very false economy and will be more costly in the long run. These are not just services to meet immediate needs today, but represent investment in prevention of more costly interventions tomorrow.

Conference is also concerned that the commissioning agenda will lead to a massive detriment to terms and conditions across both voluntary and statutory sectors, a continuing shift in the nature of the voluntary youth sector and its relationship with the state and a terminal fragmentation of the statutory youth sector.

As local authorities plan their budgets for the next three years, the case for youth work needs to be heard amongst all the competing demands for resources. Councils and central government need to start thinking long-term about investing in services for young people.

Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to develop resources to:

1)Defend vigorously our members’ jobs and terms and conditions, including, where appropriate, through industrial action within UNISON’s rules and procedures;

2)Continue to build a network of youth and community activists to campaign to protect jobs, pay and conditions;

3)Provide recruitment materials to Regions and branches to increase our membership;

4)Build a media campaign surrounding attacks on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions, highlighting the impact on youth and community workers;

5)Provide guidance to branches on cooperative mutual social enterprise or other ownership models proposed for youth support services;

6)Develop qualitative evidence to show youth work’s impact on young people, how it achieves this in distinctive ways and so what will be lost if open access informal education provision which young people choose to attend is lost or diminished;

7)Lobby Councillors and MPs on the importance of youth services and their impact on young people’s life chances, the requirements on local authorities and their statutory requirements, and the effect that cuts will have on young people locally;

8)Develop a voice in UK Parliaments for youth services;

9)Work with and continue to build alliances with organisations who represent those who work with young people and youth organisations themselves, such as the British Youth Council and their affiliates, to campaign to defend youth services;

10)Build the ‘Choose Youth’ campaign;

11)Involve UNISON’s National Young Members Forum in this work.