Youth Services (London)

Oral Answers to Questions — Children, Schools and Families – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 4th February 2008.

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Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Labour, Leyton and Wanstead 2:30 pm, 4th February 2008

What plans he has to fund youth services in (a) Leyton and Wanstead and (b) London in the next three years.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families; Minister for the North West), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children and Youth Justice) (and Minister for the North West)

In addition to funding that local authorities can choose to allocate to youth services from their own budgets, over the next three years London will benefit from direct investment from my Department of £226 million for Connexions services, £64 million for Positive Activities for Young People and £34 million for youth opportunity and capital funds. The corresponding figures for Redbridge and Waltham Forest local authorities combined are £13.9 million for Connexions, £3 million for PAYP and £2.1 million for youth opportunity and capital funds.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

I very much welcome that answer, which shows the Prime Minister's and the Minister's commitment. Indeed, the Mayor of London is keen to put money into youth facilities as well. In London, those better youth facilities are very much needed to stop the drift towards gangs and gun and knife culture. Will the Minister ensure that the money is spent as intended and that some local authorities—for example, Conservative ones—do not siphon the money away from youth facilities?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families; Minister for the North West), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children and Youth Justice) (and Minister for the North West)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for his continued interest in ensuring that his local authorities invest in youth services. He is right to say that the Mayor of London has added £20 million to our money over the next two years to constitute a dedicated London youth offer. A relatively large proportion—about two thirds of the £679 million in the 10-year youth strategy—will be ring-fenced so that we can insist that local authorities spend that money in conjunction with young people themselves. It is important, however, that local authorities maintain and, if possible, increase their contribution to their youth services from their own area-based grants to continue to drive up improvements. My hon. Friend is aware that Redbridge local authority was judged to be inadequate for youth services and value for money, and it is important that he keeps monitoring it to ensure that it puts the money where it is needed.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Government's strategy, "Aiming high for young people", is a worthy commitment, but it is rather vague. Will the Minister clarify what sort of places she envisages young people will be looking for in boroughs across London?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families; Minister for the North West), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children and Youth Justice) (and Minister for the North West)

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the specific amount of money in "Aiming high for young people", which was £6 million and which was increased by a further £160 million in the children's plan for refurbished and new youth facilities—the capital part of that offer—we are very much open to local authorities working in conjunction with young people to come forward with ideas for what is needed in their areas. We want them to use the opportunity to work in partnership with voluntary organisations and with the private sector. I have seen some innovative projects putting youth facilities in place in which the private sector has come on board to provide not only money but expertise, motivation and leadership. There are excellent examples around the country, including in London, and we want the best practice to be emulated everywhere to get some really exciting places for young people.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Regent's Park and Kensington North

I very much welcome the additional money that the Mayor of London and the Government are putting into youth services. Does my right hon. Friend agree that when youth service investment is matched with extended schools, that can make a real difference to tackling antisocial behaviour and improving academic performance and attendance? Does she also agree that it is bizarre that youth services are often closed on the nights of the week, such as Fridays, when the demand is greatest and the need to get young people off the street is greatest? Will she work with local authorities to ensure that youth services are delivering when they are needed most?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families; Minister for the North West), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children and Youth Justice) (and Minister for the North West)

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. As she knows, I have been leading something of a campaign on this. We did some research in eight local authorities and discovered in a spot check that in none of them were youth facilities open on a Friday and Saturday. It is time that we got away from providing services that suit the hours of the people who want to work in them rather than those who need the services. As local authorities come forward with their plans for using this money, we will press hard to ensure that, conditionally, these places must be open at times when it makes sense for young people who want to use them.