EDUCATION SECRETARY ADDRESSES NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF YOUTH SERVICE OFFICERS
New arrangements for capital grants for the Youth Service—announced last year—had been a success and the response for 1972–73 showed that fears expressed at the time were unfounded, said Education Secretary Mrs Margaret Thatcher at the National Association of Youth Service Officers' Conference in Cheltenham today (Friday 14 April).
Mrs Thatcher said that doubts were expressed in many quarters about the wisdom of devolving on local authorities responsibility for determining which voluntary capital projects should receive assistance within the resources at the Department's disposal. Two main objections were raised. First, that to be successful there would need to be a degree of co-operation between the local authorities and voluntary agencies in determining local priorities which was unlikely to be achieved. Second, that making grant aid from local authorities a pre-requisite to grant from the Department would lead to a significant reduction in the value of new building provided with assistance from public funds.
“Compared with the bids received for the last building programme under the old arrangements (1970–71) the total value of voluntary youth projects which local education authorities have said they are prepared to grant aid is half as much again,” said Mrs Thatcher.
She felt that the new arrangements for capital grants would foster co-operation among all local interests and lead to wiser planning and a greater joint use of premises. Emphasising the importance of co-operation at all levels Mrs Thatcher said that the present channels of communication between the Government and statutory and voluntary bodies were open and were working. Another area of co-operation was the increasing amount of youth work that was being initiated in the schools—the growth of youth wings, community schools, campus developments and the appointments of teacher/youth leaders and youth tutors.
“A substantial proportion of those making use of the Youth Service are still at school or at college, and the proportion will be increased when the school leaving age is raised. Thus two parts of the system have contact with the same young people and both are trying to meet some of the same needs.” [end p1]
“Government policy for the Youth Service has developed in a number of ways in recent times. We have accepted the need to give priority to the socially deprived and to tackle the problems of young immigrants. In this latter context over half of the grants currently being paid by the Department for experimental and development work are in respect of projects related to the special needs of young immigrants.”
“We have said that the Youth Service age limits of 14 to 20 should be interpreted with reasonable latitude. We have introduced new arrangements from 1 April by which the determination of need for, and the administration of, local capital projects become a local responsibility. We have announced our intention to review the basis of grants towards the headquarters and training expenses of national voluntary youth organisations. And at the request of SCANVYO we are financing an independent study by PEP of the work and finance of these bodies which is expected to be complete by the middle of next year.”
The Secretary of State said that the total annual expenditure on the Youth Service by central and local government had increased from some £3m in 1960/61 to around £20m in 1970/71 and capital building programmes amounting to £41m had been approved. In the last ten years the number of qualified youth leaders had increased from 700 to over 2,000 and improved and more extensive training facilities had been introduced for full-time and part-time leaders.
None of the advances that had been achieved during the last ten years would have been possible without the enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of the youth workers: the small band of professionals, the voluntary organisations and, not least, the thousands of individuals who gave their time, skills and enthusiasm in the service of young people.
“The Youth Service is made up of an immense variety of organisations; a variety in my view from which it derives much of its strength. The objectives of its constituent members may have much more in common. But, for very good reasons, many of them will have different approaches to these objectives and different means of achieving them. The Government, therefore, believes that it would be wrong in principle, as well as totally unrealistic, to attempt to impose from the centre a common policy which would apply equally to all the organisations involved.”
Speaking about the public image of young people Mrs Thatcher said “We hear so much of the drop outs, the drug addicts, and the dissident groups who achieve a passing notoriety through threats and attacks on people and property. But there has probably never been a time when young people cared so deeply and were so well informed about social problems about the needs of the aged, the lonely, the neglected and the sick. And a growing number of these young people are prepared to devote time and energy to doing what they can to help through voluntary service and many personal acts of thoughtfulness.” [end p2]
Giving details of a survey commissioned by the Department on behalf of the Youth Service which is to be published shortly Mrs Thatcher said that in response to the survey, 65 per cent of all the young people in the 14 to 20 age range interviewed said that they were at the time attached to what they called a “club” .
“You will at once recognise that this is a much higher figure than has been used in the past. The difference can be explained partly by the wide definition of club. When talking more narrowly of Youth Clubs, 26 per cent of the sample said they attended one—though these young people did not count as Youth Clubs a number of recognised youth service organisations. Nine out of ten young people said they are or were at some time attached to a club—widely defined—and seven out of ten to a Youth Club. Bearing in mind all the qualifications, the survey indicates that the number of genuine unattached may be lower than had been thought.
“The report does not list formal recommendations but its final chapter discusses the survey findings. It draws a number of conclusions, though these are tentative ones with certain reservations. Among these the report comments on the significant loss at age 17 or so and suggests that attention needs to be focused on those who are prone to leave at this age. This is a problem with which all of you will be familiar and to which you will no doubt have given much thought.”