The government has pledged £9 million to ensure local authorities meet new duties to provide "positive activities" for young people.
New regulations that came into force yesterday apply a statutory duty, "so far as reasonably practicable", for each local authority within England to offer some form of educational and recreational activity to cater for the "well-being" of the 13-19 age group.
Educational activities are deemed to encompass such areas as "homework or special interest clubs", volunteer work, and artistic, sporting and other physical activity; "recreational" will proffer a more cultural approach, including performing/visual arts and music.
Beverley Hughes, Young Peoples Minister, commented on the regulations: "Some local authorities already provide excellent services for young people. We want to see that ethos spread, and the rest catch up with the best".
"A significant minority of young people cannot or do not take part in positive activities. We want to make sure that every young person, whatever their background, has the chance and the means to do so. By giving them access to constructive activities, as well as more influence over what activities are made available, young people can enrich their lives, increase their skills and confidence, enhance their life chances and avoid the possibility of falling under negative influences".
A consultation document released suggests that the 13-19 age group "is commonly understood to represent for most young people a transition period in which participation in positive activities can offer significant benefits".
Further, the regulations require local authorities to consult young people in the development of new activities which they feel would benefit; a specific requirement has been placed for them to "ascertain" the views from young people on existing provision, the need for additional provision, and their access to it.
While the government has invested £9 million for the period 2006-07 and 2007-08, a further £115 million is available via the Youth Opportunity and Capital Funds; this provides money for youth-led activities and improves existing venues within the community.
The Minister added: "During the public consultation on "Youth Matters", we asked young people what they thought we needed to change "“ 60% of them, and the majority of parents, told us they thought there was not enough to do in the area in which they lived. We"re now making it a priority, an obligation, for local authorities to turn that around".