Headlines: December 8th, 2003

Services for teenagers are patchy and unreliable. This is the conclusion of the Institute for Public Policy Research following a consultation with young people about activities and support available in their community. The project was carried out in Coventry and it involved working with young people at a neighbourhood level over a month in Summer 2003. The researchers and a local youth arts project helped them to articulate the issues they faced and what they wanted to see change in their community.The researchers found that current services, delivered through Connextions, are too focused on education and work rather than social and emotional support. The professionals who provide the services were also criticised. It is argued that new types of professionals are needed who can work with teenagers to provide activities and support over a period of time. They should be people who have more than one ‘tool’ in the bag. A new profession might combine the skills of youth and social work, mental health and careers services.

Recommendations include a “Sure Progress” initiative to mirror Sure Start which is concerned with early years. This would need to provide consistent and effective support, intervention and activities for teens. It would balance the support offered across the age range. There should also be a national audit of the quality and number of youth clubs and centres available for teenagers and a commitment to developing new, modern youth clubs, which combine activity with support and advice.

There is also a call for more focus on involving young people in shaping services and activities within their communities. There is a need to develop roles for young people as managers, advisers, governors, auditors, fund-raisers and volunteers in community level services.

The report ‘Passing Time’ is available at http://www.ippr.org.uk