Services to support young people are continuing to deliver their important work, despite a difficult economic climate, cuts to funding and competing strategic priorities. In a report published today, Estyn found that the best youth support services are those based on professional youth work practice. This is where services focus on the rights and individual needs of young people, offering activities in a safe environment where they can create healthy relationships, build new friendships, learn useful skills and gain new experiences.
Estyn’s report, ‘Youth Support Services in Wales – The Value of Youth Work’ provides a general evaluation of the quality of services for 11 - 25 year-olds. These services include open access youth clubs, community-based projects, and more targeted support for young people facing difficulties with securing employment and training, poverty, domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health or homelessness.
While there is a wide range of youth support services available across Wales, many young people either do not know about them or have difficulty getting access to professional youth work. Reduced funding and competing policy priorities have also changed the way services are structured and targeted. Often, their spread and location means that those living in a rural area may not have the same range of opportunities and services available to them as those living in urban areas, or face unreliable internet access to online services.
The report recommends that the Welsh Government, local authorities and their partners should renew a commitment to professional youth work. This can be achieved by putting young people’s rights at the heart of their work, listening to what they need and involving them in decisions. The report includes case studies describing particular projects that have overcome barriers in providing youth support services.
Estyn’s report is the first in a series arising from a joint project examining issues around support for young people in Wales. This project is being carried out by Estyn, Care Inspectorate Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office working together as Inspection Wales.
Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,
All young people have the right to high quality support through professional youth work. Local authorities and voluntary sector groups such as the Urdd, Young Farmers, and the Prince’s Trust, provide important activities that develop young people’s self-reliance and widen their experiences.
There are variations in the quality and extent of youth services across Wales and barriers to ensuring all young people have equal access to the support they need. Today’s report recommends involving young people at a local level so they can influence the services available to them.
As part of the report, inspectors met local authority senior officers, local authority and voluntary sector youth service managers, youth workers, and young people to listen to their views. One young person believed that they “wouldn’t be here today” without their youth service.
The report highlights Llamau housing association in Cardiff which works well with very vulnerable young people who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Their workers take the time to get to know the young people so that their needs can be addressed. Interventions are flexible and focused on individuals and provides targeted support for the range of issues and situations facing each young person.
Estyn outlines recommendations for local authorities, providers and the Welsh Government to address the barriers faced in providing effective youth services and ensure that the needs of young people remain at the heart of this work.