Ireland and Wales legislate for statutory Youth Service
Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002
Technically the republic of Ireland is the first country to achieve a statutory Youth Service. Its legislation is in place through the recently passed Youth Work Act of 2001. It sees youth work as being “complementary to the formal school system”. A Minister will work with a National Youth Work Advisory Committee and the state will fund the 33 Vocational Education Committees to work with Youth Work Committees and voluntary Youth Councils to provide three year development plans and funding for them. If the VECs do not perform the Minister can designate someone else to take over. The Minister will also approve the budgets for youth work proposed by the VECs.
In essence this simple structure, reflected in the decisions in Wales, does what the Albemarle Committee said should be done all along.
Ireland’s Youth Service looks set to grow from this legislation and potential for the development of a profession of youth work must now surely be possible. Hitherto the two qualification courses in Ireland at Maynooth and Cork have been endorsed by the Endorsement Panel from England. Although graduates from these courses are entitled to JNC terms and conditions if they work in Northern Ireland, Wales or England they are paid appallingly at home. A variety of voluntary organisations employ them and there is low status and the worst pay rates in Europe for Youth Workers.
If the Act is to be truly developed in practice professional development will be key. There will need to be more qualification training places, an endorsement body within Ireland and above all a coherent set of terms and conditions under JNC linked to those qualifications.
CYWU has written to civil servants, the Minister and National Advisory Council congratulating them on the most progressive and first legislation so far.
Extending Entitlement the framework document for Wales which received such a rapturous reception at CYWU national Conference when it was analysed by Minister for Education Jane Davidson has been followed up by Draft legislative guidance for new legislation. This draft guidance,wasupported unanimously by the National Assembly’s Lifelong Learning Committee on December 12th.
All Chief Executives of local authorities in Wales will be expected to begin work by January 2002 to establish Local Young People’s Partnerships to audit provision and need, develop a strategy for the future, annual plans, and allocate resources to strengthen youth work delivery and the support of young people. Commended by the European Youth Council already as the most consultative youth related government in Europe the Welsh Assembly will expect to see the active participation of young people throughout the whole process. The Youth Service and youth work method are the basis of the developmental and support system for young people. All providing agencies will be expected to collaborate on this supportive structure for young people. There will be genuine new money, new legislation in force by next September and a renewed commitment to professionalisation through JNC. In service training is seen as being key.
Wales NEC member Jan Cleverley welcomed the Committee’s decision as “ground breaking, and a boost to all workers after year’s of neglect” but she pointed out too that employers throughout Wales will have to modernise and recognise the role that a professional union like CYWU can play in the process.
The legislation and policy framework in Wales, as in Ireland, have developed so well because there has been a genuine welcoming of representatives from the profession and the field in the policy formation. The Minister has established a Youth Policy Team which includes civil servants and experienced practitioners and policy makers. It is supplemented by secondees from the voluntary and statutory youth work sectors, and Careers Wales, and an external reference group of people with relevant expertise.
The Expert Advisory group in Wales was chaired by Margaret Jervis Director of Valley Kids who immediately after the historic Committee meeting said: “This is the most important piece of legislation the Assembly has developed for young people. All organisations with a remit for young people must now combine and improve delivery. The Youth Service which was seen as the weak link and previously cut, is now key to ensuring that all can work together and support young people when and where there are needs. A holistic approach to young people is needed. In service training for all staff will be critical and this is highlighted in the paper, we are particularly concerned to see child protection and health and safety issues taken up. The process of planning to support young people at local level in a collaborative way and with young people will be as important as the provision itself. Part of our success has been the collaborative approach of our Policy team with civil servants and fieldworkers developing policy together within the clear framework established by the Minister.”
During debate on the draft guidance Jane Davidson described how the consultation on Extending Entitlement in Wales had been the largest consultation on anything to do with education. The document was there to influence youth friendly developments across all departments. The document had been developed by taking careful note of experts and interest groups. It gave an opportunity to bring previously marginalized voices to the centre stage.
Labour Assembly member Lorraine Barrett who has a great deal of experience of local youth organisations in Penarth, spoke of the real need to ensure proper involvement of young people and create meaningful forums for their voice to be heard. Similarly Liberal AM Mick Bates hoped the draft guidance and new structures would ensure community representation at all levels. He also called very importantly for the development of clear protocols within voluntary organsiations working with young people and the importance of training for all staff. Liz Williams from the policy group gave an assurance that the Draft Guidance was for the long haul and that well trained workers were the key.
Gareth Jones of Plaid Cymru wondered what the link between the youth service programme and the schools based personal and social education would be and was heartened to know that the Minister was seeking to establish youth councils in every school. Lifelong Learning Committee Chair Cynog Dafis (Plaid) asked how the guidance and plans would be translated into provision and resourcing and the Minister clarified that the unequivocal plan was to introduce a statutory Youth Service and funding would have to follow and be planned over years.
CYWU has pledged its utmost support for the Committee’s proposals and to local authorities and voluntary organisations charged with delivery, but we are in no doubt that the partnership at work approach we have adopted and the ability of the union to provide high quality in service training will be particularly useful in this process. We are in no doubt either that some of the out of date management and misuse or under use of the JNC will be a real obstacle to development.
The Draft Guidance consultation finishes at the end of January and legislation progresses to the Business committee thereafter. By the end of 2002 new Youth Service Partnerships should be established and functioning effectively in every local authority area.
Well done Wales.