Youth Sector Criticised for Lack of Evidence

28 January 2011 — 2 Comments

This is a very interesting piece of news where the outcome will affect the youth work landscape in the UK for a long time: Select committee chairman blasts youth sector for lack of evidence.

The chairman of the education select committee inquiry into young people’s services has accused the youth sector of failing to make a strong case for government funding. Speaking during the opening session of the inquiry today, Graham Stuart MP said: “It does seem an extraordinary failure that you [the youth sector] can’t make a better fist at explaining the difference you make.”

A select committee is a committee made up of a small number of parliamentary members appointed to deal with particular areas or issues. The education select committee is currently holding an inquiry into the role of universal services such as youth clubs and cultural activities for young people, and targeted youth services for vulnerable groups. They had been hearing oral evidence from larger youth organisations including the British Youth Council, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, the National Youth Agency (NYA) and UK Youth about the need for services for young people. But from the headlines, it seems they have not been able to back up their claims with any evidence. Even more frustratingly, the heads of these organisations seem to be making excuses:

Charlotte Hill, chief executive of UK Youth, defended the lack of evidence available. “Lots of organisations haven’t been able to invest in researching their outcomes,” she said.

Susanne Rauprich, chief executive of NCVYS… had investigated setting up a system to measure the impact of its membership organisations, but was told it would cost around £2m. “We simply don’t have £2m to spend,” she said.

Fiona Blacke, chief executive of the NYA, added that the agency stopped producing its Local Authority Youth Service Annual Audit in 2008… after the previous government pulled funding for the programme.

There is a great deal of anger on the CYP Now forum that these big youth organisations who supposedly represent all of our work, have failed to make a strong case for what we do. As mas says:

Are those the organisations the youth work sector would have chosen to represent them? Who made the decision they should represent and on what basis? I’m intrigued that the excuses given relate to cost. Is it really the case that in these circumstances they couldn’t find a way to support all those they represent to put together the huge amount of evidence they must have collected for their various work?

Then later he writes:

how bloody ironic that despite it all “The chairman of the education select committee inquiry into young people’s services has accused the youth sector of failing to make a strong case for government funding.”
Surely youth workers and organisations across the country are now screaming ‘what about this huge pile of evidence I’ve been gathering for all this time?’ – aren’t they?

What do you make of this development? Can you prove that what you do with young people is effective? Is it even important to do so? Discuss.


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

2 responses to Youth Sector Criticised for Lack of Evidence

  1. Hi Jon,

    thanks for your information on youth work in the United Kingdom. I have just moved here from New Zealand and am interested to invest my time and energy into the youth here! I ran a rock shcool back home in Wellington, New Zealand and worked with a special needs education youth club which were so vital to the lives of young people. Funding is key to continued need and growth of young poeples health wealth basically. It is sad when a childs live is deemed not worth quite enough to fund the programs and organisations that work for them. I have an audition for the Circomedia circus school and will be developing a youth related pop act, but would like to also continue to donate my time to youth. I will be based in Bristol. Are there any organisations you would recommend I approach there?

    Many thanks!


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  1. Outcomes Framework for Youth Work | - 20 March 2012

    […] as a result of our work. It was the focus of my undergraduate dissertation and last year the youth sector was criticised by the education select committee for not being able to show evidence of the difference we […]

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