24 Jul 2018

ESTYN report on Youth Support Services in Wales : The Value of Youth Work


You may be aware that the Welsh Government, through its annual remit letter for 2017-18, asked Estyn to survey youth support services in Wales.
Estyn has now published the report, on its website. The report is here, and is called ‘Youth Support Services in Wales The Value of Youth Work’: ESTYN REPORT.

Estyn’s report is the first in a series arising from a joint project examining issues around support for young people in Wales. This project is being carried out by Estyn, Care Inspectorate Wales, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office working together as Inspection Wales.

The report contains a series of recommendations for providers of youth support services, local authorities and Welsh Government. Please refer to the ‘main messages’ section for a quick overview of the report. The main body of the report provides the key detail to support the conclusions. There is also useful information in the appendices and glossary.

The messages are generally positive and supportive to the sector. Estyn found youth work as a way of working with young people is ‘alive and kicking’ in Wales, and that professional youth workers work really hard at maintaining this, even when working in services which are very targeted. This youth work methodology provides something special to those services, which helps them help young people achieve, especially in some of the most trying and disadvantaged circumstances.

There is however a lot of work to do, to make sure young people get the services they need and deserve. Not least, the sector needs to agree how it plans for services, prioritises its work, and maintains the youth work ethos within all youth support services, in order to ensure young people’s rights are assured.

estyn report

The key messages from the report are as follows:

• Youth support services are educational services.
• The statutory basis for youth support services is found within education legislation beginning with the 1944 education act, and more recently in the learning and Skills Act (2000), and expanded further in the Welsh Government’s statutory guidance Expending Entitlement (2002).
• Youth support services are defined broadly within both the legislation and in Extending Entitlement, and intentionally cover not only focussed intervention services but also the services traditionally provided through local authority and voluntary sector youth services.
• Extending Entitlement makes youth work central to youth support services provision.
• There is a clear and profound difference between generic ‘work with young people’ and ‘youth work’.
• Youth work is a specific way of working with young people, which is defined, has a clear ethical base, and is set against professional occupational standards.
• The most effective services for young people, including intervention services are those, which are underpinned by youth work values, and are delivered through the medium of youth work.
• Unfortunately, youth work is frequently confused with settings in which young people gather, or with organised activities provided for young people, this creates confusion when the value of youth work is discussed.
• The breadth of youth support services available to young people is decreasing, with an increasing focus on intervention services at the expense of valuable community based social, recreational opportunities for young people.
• Young people’s access to services in Wales are too dependent upon where they live.
• Although Extending Entitlement remains in force as Welsh Government guidance for this work, its influence has declined.
• Youth support services are available through both the Welsh and English languages, however the strongest focus is on the provision of Welsh medium cultural activities and less on bilingual activities, and targeted support work through the medium of Welsh.
• The local authority and the voluntary sector both deliver valuable services to young people, and in many instances work well together in partnership to provide local services. However, the status of voluntary sector work is generally not equal to that of local authority work when it comes to strategic planning at a local or regional level.

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