Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
Today, I would like to inform members that the final report of the Interim Youth Work Board for Wales: Time to Deliver for Young People in Wales, has been published. The report presents recommendations to the Welsh Government for creating a sustainable model for youth work services, and builds on the Board’s initial report, which was published on 11 January this year.
Hearing and responding to the views of young people is vital to me. I am delighted that the Board has continued to engage with young people in a meaningful way throughout the development of its final report. The Young Person’s Committee have been involved in the process and a video clip and other materials explaining the report recommendations to young people have been posted on the Welsh Government’s website and social media channels.
The Board has made an outstanding contribution to youth work services. That is evident in the catalytic impact it has had in creating a climate for collaboration across the sector and bringing a fresh momentum to youth work, as well as the essential support it provided for young people during the pandemic.
I welcome the report and I am tremendously grateful to the Chair, Keith Towler, the members of the Board, its Strategy Participation Groups, the wider statutory and voluntary youth work sector and the Young Person’s Committee for their valuable contributions, and their dedication to improving youth work services and the lives of young people in Wales.
I would also like to thank the youth work sector for their continued hard work throughout the pandemic. I acknowledge the immense difficultly that the sector has faced during this time and I am impressed by how it has continued to adapt and evolve its services to support young people. The sector has truly demonstrated the importance and the need for innovative youth work services in Wales.
In June I met with the Chair of the Board, to discuss the recommendations, which are ambitious and challenging. I want to give the recommendations the full and careful consideration they deserve, therefore I will formally respond to the report at the end of this year. During this time my officials will focus on undertaking a review of each recommendation and will continue to collaborate with the sector and young people as they consider next steps.
Furthermore, work is already underway in the spirit of the recommendations. This includes bringing together two local authority areas to work on improving the provision of Welsh medium youth work services, and working with the Education for Wales Council to ensure that youth work, education and work opportunities are part of the Educators Wales website, and that registration and safeguarding for youth work has parity with other parts of the education sector. In addition, reflecting the report’s call to support youth work services to respond to the many challenges facing young people, in particular those linked to ongoing austerity and the post-pandemic recovery, on 7 September I announced an additional £2.5m for youth services in 2021-22. This funding will be used to provide additional emotional, mental health and well-being support to young people, through combined work between local authorities and the voluntary sector. The funding will reach out and provide support for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, responding to the deepening inequalities resulting from the pandemic. Programmes will increase early intervention and prevention services for mental health and wellbeing issues. Local authorities will be expected, as part of accepting the funding, to ensure they work with other local mental health services to add value to existing services.
I am now considering options for succession arrangements for the Board’s work to continue without pause, in particular around engagement with the sector in developing policies around youth work services. Participation from the sector is vital if we are to drive this vision forward and ultimately deliver the effective, inclusive and sustainable services that the young people of Wales deserve. I am fully committed to delivering the vision set out in the Youth Work Strategy and I look forward to collaborating with the Board, the youth work sector and young people in the coming months.