Youth Services and Youth Workers

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2016 Local Government Service Group Conference
16 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that youth and community services have suffered massive cuts every year since 2010.

UNISON’s 2014 ‘Damage’ report made clear the extent and impact of these cuts: hundreds of youth centres have closed and tens of thousands of youth service places for young people have been lost. Updated UNISON research is expected to show that these cuts have got far worse since 2014, and that youth services in Cymru/Wales, which were initially insulated from cuts, are now really suffering.

Meanwhile, local authorities are merging youth services with other quite different services, and outsourcing to private and other providers.

Conference believes that the changes being imposed indicate a lack of understanding of the value of youth services. Youth services help young people play an active role in their communities, avoid crime and substance abuse, improve their education, and gain employment. Often young people who are from the most vulnerable groups gain most from youth services. All of this work relies on workers having the time and space to develop bonds of trust with the young people.

Conference notes – with disappointment but not surprise – that the Westminster Government Minister responsible for youth services refused to meet with UNISON reps and officials in 2015 to discuss these issues.

Conference also notes that youth and community workers, whether employed on the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) Pink Book or the National Joint Committee (NJC) Green Book, have experienced year upon year of real terms pay cuts. In 2015 the Employers’ Side of the JNC made clear their determination to wind up the JNC and move all those workers still on it onto the NJC.

Pay is not the only workplace issue important to youth and community workers. The JNC Employers have refused to change the system of evening sessions, with many workers working an average of four evening sessions each week, and many more forced to work split shifts – working in the morning and evening and left stranded during the afternoon. UNISON members’ work-life balance is suffering.

Conference believes there should be a statutory duty on local authorities to provide youth services, but that this is pointless without resources. UNISON’s first campaigning priority for youth services should be to focus on getting the resources for quality publicly provided youth services provided by properly paid workers.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive (SGE):

1)To make the campaign for high quality youth services, provided by local authorities with full funding from central government, a key plank of the SGE’s Save Our Local Services campaign;

2)To work with Labour Link to press the Labour Party to develop a progressive, well thought-out set of policies on youth work, which recognise the value of these services to society and which seek to improve the pay and conditions of the workers providing them;

3)To support the Youth and Community Workers Sector Committee in its push for better work-life balance for members;

4)To ensure that the Youth and Community Workers Sector Committee campaigns and negotiates constructively to protect members’ interests if and when the JNC Employers begin formally to wind up the JNC, ensuring that the youth worker occupation is protected, terms and conditions are protected, out of hours working is rewarded, and the JNC qualification system is respected;

5)To continue to include youth and community workers within the SGE’s work on occupation-specific recruiting and organising initiatives.