Youth and Community Workers

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2018

Conference notes that youth and community workers do a vital job in our communities, providing real and long-lasting benefits for young people. While some public services step in when problems occur, youth services prevent so many difficulties from occurring in the first place. UNISON members in youth services help young people to lead positive lives as members of society.

UNISON’s research has found that by 2016, £387m had been cut from youth services, with the loss of more than 3600 jobs and 600 youth centres, due to the Westminster government’s cuts. Since then, figures from the House of Commons library show that the amount councils plan to spend on youth services dropped by 53.6% between 2010 and 2017. Local authorities have responded to Tory cuts by reducing youth service budgets, outsourcing to alternative delivery models, and merging youth services with other departments – like social work, youth offending teams, and libraries.

These mergers have meant that fewer and fewer qualified youth workers are employed, and in the last year several universities have stopped providing their youth work degree courses in response. The result is a systemic decline in youth and community work. At the same time, the government has failed to publish the youth strategy it has been promising for some time, instead relying on the National Citizen Service, which is no substitute for year-round, universal youth services provided in the communities that most need them.

Youth and community workers, whether they are employed on Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) ‘Pink Book’ or NJC for Local Government Services terms, have suffered years of decline in real pay, due to pay freezes and below inflation increases.

Conference believes we need a fully funded statutory publicly provided youth service provided by trained and properly paid staff, and that UNISON must continue to provide a strong focus on organising this occupational group.

Conference welcomes the Labour Party’s recent commitment, when in government, to reverse the youth service cuts, carry out a root and branch review to explore innovation and service delivery, and appoint a minister for youth affairs.

Conference calls on the service group executive to:

1)Renew its focus on recruiting student youth workers and retaining them when they qualify, including providing branches and Regions with mapping information, guidance and dedicated materials so that they can speak to youth workers when they are studying and develop relationships with them at an early point;

2)Continue to defend the youth work profession, promoting the importance of the link between high quality services and the JNC-endorsed degree qualification, and learning lessons from the experience of professional registration in Cymru/Wales;

3)Campaign against youth service cuts, working with the Labour Party and other political parties across the four nations as appropriate, and support Regions and branches defending youth work jobs.