Radical Action Needed to Transform Youth Services; Former Children's Commissioner Keith Towler Is Now the Chairman of CWVYS, the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services. Here He Outlines the Challenges Facing a Sector Very Close to His Heart

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 7, 2016 | Go to article overview

Radical Action Needed to Transform Youth Services; Former Children's Commissioner Keith Towler Is Now the Chairman of CWVYS, the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services. Here He Outlines the Challenges Facing a Sector Very Close to His Heart


THIS time last year I wrote my first annual report as the chairman of CWVYS. In the past 12 months a lot has happened, but in a way, not a lot has changed for youth work in Wales.

What do I mean by that? Well, we have seen a number of developments, not least the establishment of the Ministerial Reference Group for Youth Work in Wales; the publication of a Charter for Young People in Wales; a focus on youth work in schools; and the prospect of youth worker registration with the Education Workforce Council from April 2017.

And yet, the voluntary youth work sector finds itself fighting on a daily basis for survival.

How many voluntary youth work managers in Wales do you think spend the majority of their time chasing funding opportunities or completing budget forecasts for their trustees? Nearly all of them, I suspect.

This raises some huge questions for voluntary youth work organisations, for CWVYS, for our local authority partners and for local and national government in Wales.

Let's remind ourselves what youth work is for and the extent of its impact. Youth work provides a universal, open-access offer for all young people in Wales - a voluntary relationship that provides the foundation for the delivery of targeted services, information and support.

I said last year that without that universal open-access foundation we will be building on sand and I stand by that assertion.

It is really important that we recognise two things. Firstly, that good youth work delivers for young people, and secondly, that the value young people place on the service is incredibly high.

Wales is committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and central to that commitment is the right that all young people have to have their voices heard in all matters that affect their lives.

Young people, then, must play a central role in the development and growth of youth work in Wales.

There is so much talent among our young people. We must listen to their experience and work with them in partnership to build a youth service for Wales that delivers for them now and for years into the future.

Simply put, good youth work saves young lives. For many young people, the trusted relationship that they have with their local youth project provides the platform from which they build resilience, self-esteem and find a professional response at times of crisis.

Youth work, of course, also provides opportunity, a safe place to meet friends and explore new experiences, and helps young people realise their full potential.

For years in Wales we have debated and then debated some more about youth work structures, how we can provide services and support for young people and, crucially, how young people themselves can get their voices heard to help to shape the way youth work responds to the things that are important to them.

It feels like we are in something of a 'Groundhog Day'. …

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Radical Action Needed to Transform Youth Services; Former Children's Commissioner Keith Towler Is Now the Chairman of CWVYS, the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services. Here He Outlines the Challenges Facing a Sector Very Close to His Heart
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