Youth Services

Part of Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 6:25 pm, 24th July 2019

With the leave of the House, I will close this debate for the Government, and it is a pleasure to do so. I thank hon. Members for such a passionate and informed debate. Let me repeat that the all-party group has done outstanding work on its report. I will, and we will, fully consider all its recommendations, and all the contributions made by Members today. I think that we do need to look at the workforce strategy. We need to make sure that we have a formal response to the report. I am delighted to hear that UK Youth has written to the new Prime Minister today. I do not want to give away secrets at the Dispatch Box, but I very much encouraged it to do so, so I am delighted that it has undertaken that.

As we have seen from the passionate speeches around the Chamber, there is absolutely a need to consider this report. The message from this debate is that we need somewhere to go in talking about youth work and our young people. We need to offer the opportunity that comes through the youth charter. I am delighted with the way that the sector has got to grips with supporting that. As we have heard, we are committed to the revision of the youth work qualifications, the bursary programme and the revision of the guidance for local authorities. That has met with warm support, but I absolutely recognise that many Members around the Chamber feel that it is just the start. On the issue of youth loneliness, the new policies that will come into place later this year, I hope, will have a focus on our young people—on our care leavers, on our young carers and on people who need further support.

My hon. Friend Tim Loughton, who is no longer in his place, talked about fast-track opportunities to get into youth service. The role of the NCS is extraordinarily valuable and important. The opportunity to bring people into this realm is a chance to give back through NCS—a great way to explore. Talking of exploring, it is very important for us to look at the future underspend in the NCS. I would personally love to see it directed towards detached youth services. I would welcome, as anybody would, more funding going that way, but obviously we will have to wait and see. The NCS is delivering a more confident, capable group of young people. We want that for all our young people, and it is absolutely right that we focus on that.

Vicky Foxcroft spoke about long-term funding, which is what the youth endowment fund is about. It is absolutely right that we look at the 10-year plan—and that is exactly what it is—on top of the £22 million early intervention plan. On the joined-up approach, it is absolutely right that we link up with our communities and schools. Our schools know where the young people who are going to be at risk are at the end of the day—from 3 pm to 6 pm, after school. It is therefore absolutely right that we use the opportunities and understanding that our schools have.

Ruth George made an emotional speech. I understand what she said; my goddaughter lives in a rural community in Derbyshire. I do not want anyone to feel, from talking to young people, that it is a terrible time to be young. That is not where we want to be. The innovation and opportunities in this sphere should reach everyone, wherever they live. I hope that, through the additional £16 million in the rural services delivery grant for local authorities, we can give hope to young people. As we have heard, we need to balance the urban, rural and coastal challenges. The Government have a proud record of putting more money into coastal communities, supporting 295 projects nationwide with £174 million since 2012.

I want to talk about the youth charter. Lloyd Russell-Moyle spoke about the importance of youth positivity and not needing to reinvent the wheel. He asked about where we are with the NYA on the evaluation of current youth work. That is ongoing between us and the Department for Education, and no final decision has been made, but his plea has been heard.

It is true that there has been a challenge regarding our youth services. Local authorities are responsible for assessing local needs, and we have given them flexibility to make decisions. As we have heard today, where we use innovation, our community and our understanding of it, we can get things right and do things better.

We heard from Cat Smith that this is not just about ping-pong, but I would like to look at ping-pong, because the Brighton Table Tennis Club in the constituency of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown is fantastic. I have never been to a youth centre or youth club that does not have table tennis, and I would like to praise that one in particular. It works with a pupil referral unit and with people with dementia. There are fantastic, elite table tennis players. There are people who suffer loneliness and isolation, and it is table tennis that has brought them together. That just shows how services can be innovative and welcoming by opening up their facilities. Through the loneliness fund, we have ensured that local facilities are available for people to come to and feel welcome in.

I want to pick up on a point made by Lyn Brown. If we are lucky, we can look back to a teacher, youth worker, mentor or grandparent who told us that we matter and that we had chances and opportunities. We must ensure that we use our opportunities to give confidence to our young people—not to talk them down but to give them the skills and opportunities to move forward. I am delighted to hear about the extra £1.4 million in her constituency, which is being used wisely to support young people. We need to look at the basic level of sufficiency and how we are ensuring that our young people are not at risk and are safeguarded.