Speech to Conference 2002 from Ivan Lewis MP
Posted on Tuesday, January 01, 2002
I’m delighted to be here today and to have this opportunity of addressing your conference, to give you an indication of how I feel after 10 months in the job. I want to say today, I genuinely feel I am amongst friends. I thank you for the generosity of your support and the frankness of your advice.
Many of you will have heard me in the past when I have talked about my responsibilities as the first ever Minister for young people in the Department for Education and Skills. My responsibility to ensure that the views, aspirations and real life experiences of young people move to the heart of the policy making agenda and my responsibility to reassert the status and value of high quality Youth Services across government.
To me those who work in the statutory Youth service, those who work for Connexions and voluntary youth services are vital if we are to succeed in our mission to rebuild this country on the dual foundations of social justice and economic success.
Social justice because much of your work is focused on supporting young people to develop their self esteem, pursue their dreams and fulfil their potential. For many you are the first positive experience of a system which has too often let them down. You may be more surprised to hear of the contribution you can make to our economic success.
Speak to most employers and they complain that even young graduates lack skills essential to a successful business or modern public service in today’s world. Communication skills, teamwork skills, interpersonal skills and leadership skills – all skills high quality youth services support young people to develop.
So you are an integral part of creating both a fair and successful society. You also have the capacity to make a major contribution to raising educational standards and XX the modern scourges of street crime, anti social behaviour and community conflict.
Young people who are confident, have a high self esteem and know how to maintain and develop peer relationships will do so much better at school and in further education. Young people who are engaged as active members in constructive activities and who have a relationship with at least one adult role model or mentor are far less likely to turn to criminal, anti social and self destructive behaviour.
Friends, the time has come for youth services to move from the margins to the mainstream, from victim mode to the cutting edge of innovation, from debates about structures to action on standards. I recognise the Government’s responsibility to work with you in our mutual quest to reassert the status and value of youth services.
We have embarked together on an ambitious programme of reform.
This afternoon I want to cover two main themes. I am going to say a few words about how Connexions is developing and making a difference to young people. BUT I want to focus on the role of the Youth Service in Connexions. By working together, we can provide the kind of service to young people that all want to use and recognise as their first port of call to get the help they need.
I welcome your commitment to Connexions and your recognition of the “big movement towards extra support for young people through the Connexions initiative” through the conferences you are organising for practitioners.
As I’ve said before, I want to ensure unions are engaged in discussions about Connexions and Youth Service developments.
How Connexions is developing
What we’ve done so far in Connexions is already making an impact. I’d like to tell you what we’ve achieved in a very short space of time.
We have 27 operational Connexions Partnerships (out of 47) across the country. We hope to bring the rest live before 2003.
There are nearly 2000 Personal Advisers in post delivering services to young people.
Nearly 2,500 people have either completed, or are currently undertaking, Connexions Personal Adviser training. Over 13% are from a minority ethnic background. 4% have disabilities. 11% are from the voluntary sector, as well as the many who have come in via the more traditional routes. We are well on the way to achieving our aim of a diverse pool of PAs.
Over one million young people were assisted by Connexions between April last year and this January. Nearly half a million interviews have taken place.
There are over 70 One Stop Shops open across the early partnerships, offering the full range of Connexions services under one roof.
And Connexions is working.
A study in the early days of Connexions indicated the impact of the new Personal Adviser role.
Nearly 4 out of 5 (77%) said they had received better support than they had received in the past.
The vast majority (87%) reported that they now did something different as a result of the meetings with their PA, including improved attendance and participation, and more motivation and confidence.
In Coventry, rates of participation in education and training at 16 in the Connexions pilot schools increased by 6.5% in the last academic year.
There are also concrete examples of improved joint working in the areas Connexions is addressing. Joint working is one of the keys to providing the holistic Connexions service to young people.
For example in Oldham the management of the local Youth Offending Team has been transferred to the local Connexions Partnership. It will, along with the local Drug Action Team, operate from the local Connexions centre.
But for those young people who are in danger of engaging in crime we want Connexions to help further. As you will all know, the Prime Minister has made reducing street crime a priority.
We must ensure that young people get the support and help they need to develop into active citizens, and that they avoid being drawn into a life of crime. Connexions will make sure that they get this support.
Joint working is also key to maximising the role of the Youth Service in Connexions to get the best possible outcome for young people. Today I’d like to talk to you about how together, we will achieve that. I have to say its neither complex or rocket science. Youth services working with and along side Connexions to make young people’s lives better.
The Youth Service
Following the consultation on Transforming Youth Work last summer, I outlined a programme for modernising and developing the Youth Service. This programme included:
raising the quality and quantity of youth work to enable the Youth Service to play a full role in Connexions
introducing a national Common Planning Framework and Quality Standards for the Youth Service
taking steps towards a workforce development strategy which would include a Review of Qualification Training and address recruitment and retention issues
the introduction of a National Programme of Management Training for senior youth workers
Further Guidance on the role of the Youth Service and its relationship with the Connexions Service
The development of a specification for an adequate and sufficient youth service
I also gave a very public and personal commitment to work within the Department and across Whitehall to ‘Champion’ the cause of youth work
What have we achieved so far?
Once again we have made substantial progress in a very short space of time
We produced a preview copy of Working Together - Connexions and Statutory Youth Service guidance document before Christmas. We are now publishing the full document this week. I am particularly delighted that this guidance has been endorsed by Local Government Association, National Youth Agency and Association of Principal Youth and Community Officers.
I am sure that this will help youth services and youth workers to plan effectively to meet the needs of our young people
A national steering group, led by the National Youth Agency, is working up the detail of the Youth Service Common Planning Framework. I expect the planning guidance to be agreed with fellow Ministers across Government. It will be available to Local Authorities in early summer 2002
A 24 hour think tank Event with key National Partners was held in March (4 & 5 March 2002) to shape a comprehensive strategy for the recruitment, selection, training, employment and retention of a well qualified and highly motivated workforce.
I know that the planning group is working on the draft as I speak and I await the draft document with eagerness and a commitment to taking it forward. I hope that nationally you will be able to support and promote this critical strategy to success.
A consortium comprising the National Youth Agency, University of Leicester, Association of Principal Youth and Community Officers and Ford Partnership Management are contracted to produce and introduce the National Management Training Programme for Youth Workers. This will happen by October 2002 and will accommodate up to approx. 450 local authority and voluntary sector places.
Research projects are underway and due to report at the end of spring on the development of Youth Service Management Information (above) and Youth Service statistical/financial returns.
So by working together we have achieved a great deal in recent times. But alongside this standards agenda I recognize we must deliver significant new investment. We must agree on the definition of an adequate and sufficient Youth Service, then ensure local authorities meet their obligations. I propose to meet this fundamental challenge in a variety of ways.
Firstly, research projects are underway and due to report at the end of the spring on the development of Youth Service Management Information and Youth Service Statistical and Financial returns.
Secondly, I intend to publish later this year my view of an adequate and sufficient youth service.
I expect this to include the introduction of the common planning framework; the introduction of national quality standards and performance measures, a youth service pledge to young people, and for the first time a Government view of the minimum level of resource requires to provide an adequate and sufficient youth service.
Thirdly, I have been involved in discussions with the Local Government Association to ensure that we continue to encourage local authority commitment to the Youth Service, and that local elected members sign up to this view of Adequacy and Sufficiency.
Fourthly, my Department are working with Ofsted to introduce a more robust post inspection process that involves a monitoring role for Government Offices after six months, re-inspections and other interventions.
Where it becomes clear that Local Authorities are failing in their duty to provide the services that young people need and deserve I intend to take firm action.
I am currently considering a number of options to take should a Local Authority fail to respond to the modernising agenda, and I have asked DfES officials to seek further advice from legal advisers on the possibility of using the new powers given to the Secretary of State under the new learning and skills act, to direct a local authority to secure appropriate levels of resource for providing a Youth Service.
As you are aware I have recently introduced the Transforming Youth Work Development Fund and I am very excited by the range of innovative and imaginative projects that the fund will support. Government Offices will shortly be writing to Local Authorities to advise on whether Programme Plans are acceptable. I have instructed Government Offices to withhold Transforming Youth Work Development Fund allocations to those Local Authorities that are planning to reduce Youth Service expenditure and in exceptional circumstances I will consider how else the Fund can be used to support young people. I will also ask the LGA to bring whatever influence they can to encourage these Local Authorities to reverse unjustifiable decisions to reduce Youth Service expenditure. Certain authorities behaviour is unacceptable.
Of course we all eagerly await the outcome of the Spending Review and whilst I cannot make any promises, I can say that I will continue to press the youth services case. However, we do need in future to be able to argue this case based on robust evidence that measurably demonstrates the impact of youth work interventions. There are significant amounts of new funding going into youth services other than through local authority SSAS.
I know that you have concerns over relative pay scales between Youth Workers and Connexions Personal Advisers.
I’d like to point out to you that people working in Connexions are employed by a range of employers, pooling their skills to deliver a holistic service to young people. Introducing national terms and conditions would cut across all their employment arrangements. Besides, there would be no benefits to young people in doing so – and that is our primary concern.
Pay scales should be decided locally to reflect conditions in the local labour market. Partnerships need flexibility to set pay scales that attract the right kind of applicant. That doesn’t mean that quality must suffer. South Yorkshire Connexions Partnership actually had to increase its salary levels to attract the right kind, and the right quality of applicants.
We must work together to ensure that we maximise the numbers delivering services. We have a responsibility to our young people that they get the best service possible. That means spending budgets wisely to get the best value for money.
I want to conclude by saying this:
Last year I gave you a personal commitment to “champion” your work within DfES and across government. I asked you to be partners on a journey to reassert the status and value of youth services.
Today I thank you for responding magnificently to the challenge. It s a journey no longer blighted by dark tunnels but where a destination is clearly in sight. A destination where high quality innovative youth services are back centre stage.
Centre stage supporting the fabric of their communities and supporting every young person to pursue their dreams and fulfil their potential.
I have never more optimistic that together we can really make it happen.