[John Robertson in the Chair] — Services for Young People

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:48 pm on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Pat Glass Pat Glass Labour, North West Durham 3:48 pm, 22nd March 2012

I agree. In my constituency at the moment, 12 young people are chasing every vacancy. However, I want to look back to what mass unemployment causes and to look at what we will face in the future. I see people in my constituency who do not work. Their parents did not work and in all probability their children will not work. They place no value on education. They see schools as convenient baby-sitting services when their children are younger, but have no interest in whether they attend school when they are older. They have no investment in the present and no hope in the future, and they certainly do not vote.

However, the situation was not always as I have described. In communities such as mine before the 1980s and the early ’90s, those people had work. They worked in steelworks, in mines and in all the industries surrounding those big beasts, but all that has gone and we have not put anything in place for them. The cycle of depression and waste is costing the country billions of pounds, and it starts with youth unemployment. Depressingly, I can see the cycle beginning again.

As a member of the Education Committee, I was therefore very keen that early on we should take a look at services for young people and particularly services targeted at vulnerable and challenging young people. As we have heard, the Select Committee examined those services, particularly in the context of rising 16-to-19 participation in education, and we found several issues that worried us greatly, not least the major cuts in youth services and careers services.

We made a number of sensible recommendations, based on the evidence that we heard. We did not think that the Government response was adequate. I hope that the Minister can make a better showing today. In response to the Government response, we highlighted our recommendations again. We are looking for an endorsement of the outcomes framework. I know how hard it is to focus Governments on outcomes. That is very difficult for Governments. I could entertain hon. Members all afternoon with accounts of the attempts that various Governments have made to focus on outcomes and that have gone wrong.

However, we think that it would be worth while for the Government to consider an endorsement of the outcomes framework. We have recommended that the Government set out the grounds on which they will judge a local authority to have failed to provide sufficient services for young people and the ways in which Ministers will act to secure improvement, so that it is clear across the piece, for local authorities and for young people, when local authorities have failed to deliver services and what Ministers will do to secure improvement.

We underlined our finding that some local authority youth services had already closed and urged Ministers to intervene before it was too late. We told the Government that it was not good enough to dismiss our estimate of public spending on youth services, which is based on their own figures, and demanded that they provide us with their own assessment of annual public spending on youth services for each of the 10 years before introduction of the early intervention grant, so that we and others can see clearly exactly what has been spent on young people’s services in the past, what is being spent now and what is being cut and where. We raised concerns—we have discussed this already—about the potential impact of charging for the national citizen service and the impact of the NCS on youth services generally.

Most of all, we highlighted the fact that services for young people—education funding, careers services, youth services and home to school and college transport services—were at risk. Indeed, some were disappearing before our eyes—some as a result of direct Government cuts and some indirectly, through cuts to local authority funding.