Plans which would see community youth officers dedicated to supporting young people and helping coordinate youth activities in each community area will go before council leaders next week.
Early this year Wiltshire Council launched a review into the youth activity element of the youth service. The aim of the review was to ensure as many young people are able to access community activities as possible and to ensure the service gives taxpayers value for money.
A comprehensive 10-week consultation was launched in February 2014 and more than 1,700 young people gave their opinions on potential options put forward.
Wiltshire Council wanted to hear from communities – particularly young people – on how funding for youth activities could be targeted more effectively and benefit more of the county’s young residents.
In response, 1,770 young people completed an electronic survey, more than 500 took part in focus groups and 21 young people sent in letters or emails with their views. Six groups of young people also presented at area boards and five petitions were received.
There were also 38 letters and 26 responses from voluntary and community organisations, as well as comments from the Wiltshire Parent Carers Council and area boards, which received a presentation on the review.
All the feedback has now been collated and has shaped a cabinet report which will go to Wiltshire Council’s cabinet on May 15 asking council leaders to agree to recommendations which would see a community-led model operating in each area with support from trained community youth officers. Youth support workers would also be available to help the vulnerable young people build resilience and stay as safe as possible.
Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children’s services has welcomed the report. She said:
“We started this review with a lot of questions about what the future of youth services should look like and how we could ensure it reflects young people’s modern lives. The feedback we have received has given us answers and I’d personally like to thank everyone who took part in this consultation – to see so many young people engaged in local democracy has been excellent.”
“It’s clear young people want support from a trusted member of staff and they also want a greater voice and more influence – these plans give them this. Young people have also told us they want a service that meets their individual community’s needs recognising their area’s unique identity and these proposals ensure they have this by devolving power and funding to area boards.”
The proposals also include giving more of a voice and influence to young people through Local Youth Networks (LYNs) which would replace youth advisory groups. LYNs would be established as a sub group of community area boards. LYNs would advise area boards, recommend local priorities and help monitor the quality and effectiveness of youth activities.
Key features of the proposed new model include the development of a community-led youth offer in each area where young people and the community will be encouraged to identify and design a varied menu of youth activities. To support this, funding will be devolved to area boards and trained youth officers will shift from providing direct youth work to enabling voluntary and community groups to develop provision to meet local needs. They would be the ‘go to’ person for advice and support on youth related issues, with a strong focus on building community capacity by assisting voluntary and community sector groups, encouraging volunteering and making the most out of community resources. Community Youth Officers would have close partnerships with a range of youth settings, including schools. They would also have an important role in coordinating positive activities for young people with disabilities.
Safeguarding would be strengthened by giving young people access to highly-skilled youth support workers. This central resource would work with vulnerable young people, helping them to build resilience and stay as safe from harm as possible. A quality mark would also be developed to facilitate high quality youth activities across all providers.