Youth services – is the pandemic a catalyst for change?

With three million vulnerable young people in England who need support, David McKinney, Servelec’s Managing Director of Local Government, hopes Covid-19 will prompt a step-change for youth services

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In recent weeks, the public sector has undeniably embraced technology to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Form hospitals trialling video consultations and GP surgeries rolling out webchat, to social workers making Zoom calls to check on those in shielding; the rate of digital transformation across our public services has been phenomenal. But one sector is in danger of being overlooked.

Supporting youth services

There are now three million vulnerable young people in England who need support with family relationships, mental health, domestic abuse, or other needs – that’s two million more since before the start of the pandemic.

A new National Youth Agency Vulnerable Young People report has highlighted the scale of young people’s needs, which have increased or been caused by the pandemic.

The report identifies homelessness, self-harm and suicide, poverty and a range of other vulnerabilities and risky behaviours in potentially unsafe environments. It calls for a clear exit strategy for young people who are likely to be included in the early stages of release from lockdown measures, more than simply reopening schools.

The report also estimates that nationally, one in five youth clubs will not reopen after the pandemic.

Youth services, and particularly, youth clubs, can act as a vital lifeline to vulnerable young people. They provide the opportunity to join in activities without stigma and access to a trusted adult if a young person needs support or help. Youth workers also engage young people in non-formal education, including those at risk on the edge of care, in gangs or those who have poor mental health.

At the moment, youth centres remain closed under emergency measures in response to Covid-19 and, for now at least, many areas have also ended outreach or street-based youth work. And the threat remains hanging over non-statutory youth services should austerity measures return post-pandemic.

Continuing care online

Many youth clubs and services are rapidly adapting their work to go digital, with activities, groups and support moving online. And, where we’ve seen other sectors look to transfer their services online in recent weeks, our local authority customers were already enabled to work online thanks to our fully web-based, single database solution for Integrated Youth Support, Core+.

Each of the Core+ products is purpose built to meet the specific needs of Children’s Services Departments and Organisations. Core+ promotes the best in data sharing and cross-service reporting, yet at the same time employs extensive role-based security for the protection and safeguarding of young peoples’ data. Most important of all, Core+ helps to measure the impact of youth services through positive engagement and improved outcomes for young people.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the need for interoperable systems in the public sector has become even more obvious, and it’s something we’ve been focusing on for some time, especially when it comes to safeguarding young people and their families. We understand just how important it is that education, social care and youth services providers can quickly and easily access up-to-date case details so they have a full picture.

Core+ is an integrated solution that provides a single view of a family as well as details of family members. Key records include details of caseworkers, interventions, incidents and assessments.

Our Local Government Viewers help to improve visibility of key information at a local authority by providing a more joined-up and complete picture of a child or young person’s circumstances.

Access to shared records means professionals spend less time chasing information and more time with those who need it. Through our interoperability platform Conexes, Servelec can securely share information held in Core+ with other systems, giving your care professionals a better view of a person’s needs, and helping to facilitate better outcomes across social care, education and youth services.

We’ve continued to support children and young people’s teams by creating systems that provide the right information at the right time to make the right decisions.

Will change come?

In November last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) opened a consultation to inform the upcoming Statutory Guidance Review for Local Authorities on providing youth services.

The government is revising the guidance relating to Section 507B of the Education and Inspections Act, which sets government expectations of (upper tier) local authorities when they are securing services and activities for young people.

A number of associations and charities have urged the government to renew its focus on youth services matched by dedicated funding to avoid further divergence of provision in local areas. Covid-19 could have a huge detrimental impact on our already overstretched youth services, but perhaps a crisis like this might shine the much-needed spotlight back on the needs of our vulnerable young people.