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Labour announces vision to build a universal youth service taking a public health approach to young people’s needs

‘Only Young Once’: Labour’s Vision for Youth Services in England
Labour will guarantee young people access to youth services in every community
  • We will introduce a new national ‘Youth Service Guarantee’ for young people backed by new legislation.
  • We will require Local Authorities to set up and facilitate Local Youth Partnerships to develop a diverse, universal offer for young people.
  • We will create a new Youth Services Fund to roll back a decade of austerity.

Labour will develop a young person-centred service

  • We will ensure young people are fully represented on the national body for youth work and any local planning body for the Youth Service and are actively involved in the specification, commissioning, governance, delivery and scrutiny of services.
  • We will give young people and their organisations a statutory right to consultation on the development of local Youth Service plans and any changes to them, and in the formation of any national body and any changes to funding.
  • We will train and assist a cohort of Young Inspectors to empower young people to measure the quality and impact of the youth offer.

Labour will recognise youth work as an educational  process

  • Responsibility for youth services will be transferred to the Department of Education.
  • We will also consider whether Youth Services should fit within Labour’s National Education Service, which will offer lifelong learning from cradle to grave.

Labour will rebuild the workforce

  • We will conduct an annual audit of youth work provision for all responsible local authorities.
  • We will introduce a workforce strategy providing more permanent full-time youth workers in secure employment.
  • We will create a national register for youth workers to support the professional development of the workforce.
  • We will create a legally protected title for youth workers, which will only be available to those with approved qualifications and experience, to ensure young people are safe.

Labour will champion young people at a national level

  • We will appoint a Minister for Children and Young People responsible for the national youth service.
  • We will consider establishing a cabinet sub-committee for Children and Young People to facilitate cross-departmental co-ordination.
  • We will work with the National Youth Agency to strengthen its role as the national co-ordinating body for youth work.

New Labour analysis reveals youth services decimated by £1 billion cuts. The Labour Party is today (Tuesday) announcing “Only Young Once” – a bold vision for rebuilding youth services across the whole country. Rising levels of knife crime and county lines, mental ill-health and loneliness, rising exclusions and exam pressure mean being a young person today is harder than ever.

The announcement comes as new analysis published by Labour reveals the alarming scale of cuts to youth services, showing that public spending on youth services in England has fallen by £1 billion since 2010, a reduction of 73%. Over 750 youth centres have closed their doors since 2012 and 14,500 youth and community work jobs have been lost since 2008. Labour will end the postcode lottery for young people and introduce a new national ‘Youth Service Guarantee’, ensuring every young person has access to high quality youth work in their community regardless of their background and circumstances.

Labour’s youth services will provide all young people with extra-curricular activities to build aspiration, encourage engagement in arts and sport, enable active citizenship and provide a safe space to develop social groups. Labour will prioritise community-based non-formal education that harnesses young people’s skills and empowers them to improve their own lives. By building trusted relationships at the local level through activities, qualified youth workers will signpost young people onto further services if needed. Youth workers will connect the divides between formal education, healthcare including mental healthcare, social services and family support, lifestyle guidance including addictions, crime prevention, housing, children’s care services, children’s rights, civil justice, democratic and civic participations and welfare benefits.

Labour’s plans to rebuild youth services include training, recruitment and gradually increasing number of skilled, qualified professional youth workers. Launching ‘Only Young Once’ Jeremy Corbyn MP said “The experiences of our youth can shape our entire future lives. Our young people should be supported in adolescence, a time that should be as full of wonder and as free from trouble as possible. With each young person we have just one chance to get it all right.

“The cuts to public services over the last decade have hit young people particularly hard. Life for young people in Britain today is far harder than it needs to be, and worse in many ways than it was for previous generations. We need local youth services across the whole country. We need services that can meet the complex challenges faced by young people today. We need services that will nurture and empower young people to improve their own lives.”

Cat Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Youth Affairs, said “There are far too many young people today growing up with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to speak to about their lives. Young people deserve role models – someone who can build their aspirations, empower them to recognise their strengths, and spot the emergence of anti-social behaviour and divisive ideologies before they become social problems.

“Labour will restore a nationwide youth service, built for the many young people who represent our future, not just for the few young people requiring youth justice interventions.”

Leigh Middleton, Chief Executive Officer, National Youth Agency, said “Youth services have all but disappeared from most communities. A shift to short-term, targeted funding has led to a postcode lottery of provision and a dramatic loss of trained youth workers. A revitalised universal youth service is vital to provide safe spaces and guidance outside of school, supporting young in their communities and ambitious for the future.”

Doug Nicholls, GFTU general secretary and Chair of Choose Youth, said “Labour’s policy commitments, comprehensive in their detail to funding, delivery mechanisms, educational and social purpose and deep recognition of the complex needs of young people and their creative aspirations make this beyond any shadow of a doubt the most professional and significant development ever seen in the Youth Service field.”