Cooperation with local authorities is improving the lives of young vulnerable people, according to an Ofsted report published today.
However, the report added that local authorities have made only limited progress to involve voluntary, community and private groups in providing youth services, and the focus on helping ‘at risk’ young people threatened to undermine youth activities available to all.
The report, Supporting young people: An evaluation of recent reforms to youth support services in 11 local areas, looks at the progress made by local authorities and various youth support services, such as youth offending, youth services, Connexions, voluntary and community sectors, education welfare officers and substance misuse teams, on their ability to work together for the benefit of young people.
Some of the report’s most positive findings included local authorities working together with voluntary and community sectors to engage all young people, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in activities such as volunteering, sport, cultural pursuits and youth work, which helped develop their positive attitudes and gave them skills to contribute to their communities.
During a two-year period (2007-09), eight of the 11 areas visited by Ofsted reported a drop in the numbers entering the criminal justice system, with five areas making progress by reducing the amount of young people who were not in education, employment and training.
But progress on other long-term problems, such as substance misuse and teenage conceptions, was less evident.
In a drive to improve children’s services, youth organisations have, in the last few years, been expected to work together to boost the level of care shown to children and young people.
Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: “This report shows the green shoots of that change. It is good to see that vulnerable young people are better supported in most of the 11 areas visited. It is also encouraging to see the value of involving young people in developing services.”
Mrs Gilbert said a number of problems remain with the latest approach, particularly with it being “far from embedded”.
“I am particularly concerned that in some areas the priority given to targeted support for vulnerable individuals and group appears to be undermining the contribution which youth services should be making to the development of all young people”, she said.
“There is much in this report that should stimulate discussion about how to improve the youth support services offered locally so they can make even more of a difference to local people and local communities.”
As part of the report the following local authorities were visited: London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, Dorset County Council, Hartlepool Borough Council, Newcastle City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Stockport Council, Warwickshire County Council, West Berkshire Council.