Stella Creasy (Walthamstow, Labour)
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Julie Hilling on securing this important debate. There is no doubt that all hon. Members in this Chamber are concerned about the personal development of Britain's young people and how best to secure that. As somebody with a background in the voluntary youth sector as well as local government, I recognise well the concerns expressed by many hon. Members today.
I want to make three points. First, the message that came through strongly in my hon. Friend's speech is that early intervention is valuable. The benefits to society from working with young people accrue much later on, but that does not mean that we should not recognise them early on. It is about understanding the best way of intervening. One of the challenges-one thing that we Opposition Members see in some of the things the Government are doing-is that the ability to be flexible and work with young people in a range of different ways seems to be narrowing rather than broadening.
It is about not just spaces and places for young people, but the people who work with them and the purpose of that work. We need both generalist activities that help and support young people, many of which come from the voluntary youth sector, and specialist services. I have worked in setting up both kinds of activities in my local community in Walthamstow-working with young people at risk of joining gangs, and with young people to help them achieve their potential in a broader sense. I am concerned about the idea that the national citizen service can be mixed with those more integrated services.