April 2010 - Strategies for Change for Youth Facilities

 

It's finally Spring. And past the end of the financial year. And Easter. It's a good time to reflect on the previous year and wonder what the new year will bring.

For more than a year we've been working as a subcontractor in the myplace support team (managed by Hall Aitken). Myplace is DCSF's programme for the establishment of iconic youth centres across the country.It's been through three rounds of competition between local authorities for capital money (up to £5m) to build a single youth centre in each local authority area. The timescale has been very short and many of the projects have struggled to comply, just because of a few unforeseen events. And many would criticise the approach (a competition where most people lose; money only for capital when revenue is the problem), but the results in Yorkshire and Humberside (where we've been covering) will be impressive, even for those who grumpily suggest that the money could have been better prioritised in some other way.

Part of the support team's role has been to support individual projects as they develop, but a second issue has been the need for a strategy in which the new youth centres will fit. It would have been more logical to start with the strategy and then give grants to those places which could justify a single iconic centre (or, of course a series of smaller initiatives), but often the need for action goes before the need for direction. The relevant minister (Beverley Hughes)sent a letter to all local authorities stating that they needed to produce a"strategy for change for youth facilities" though without giving any deadline or approval mechanism. The support team is there to help authorities with this task, facilitating workshops and helping them structure mapping exercises and youth engagement.

The results have been fairly predictable: it's not a priority so the timetable has slipped; there is a need to integrate with other necessary strategies (notably positive activities) and it has taken second place; and the most useful role of consultants has been that of an impartial external facilitator of meetings to discuss the vision. And given that youth services are not a statutory service, all the talk is of cuts in the future.

It seems a pity that the current economic situation will result in cuts to youth services: if you think of the long term effects, they provide good value for money. But they seem to have a weak voice in the current election campaign.