Children’s Commissioner for Wales questions adequacy of youth services

Youth services in Wales deserve to be valued and directed with strong strategic support at a national and local level. This is the call from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, as he publishes his annual report and accounts today (04 October 2012).

The Commissioner believes youth services in Wales play a significant role in the lives of many young people – it provides them with opportunities, it supports them through significant developments in their lives, and encourages them to develop knowledge and skills. For some, youth workers are the main trusted adult in their lives outside their families and for many are the only trusted adult.

Conflicting priorities

The Commissioner believes that shrinking budgets and changes in the criteria of funding streams for children and young people’s services are in danger of pushing youth services across Wales to the bottom of priority lists.

Issues brought to the Commissioner’s attention throughout the year suggests that some young people in Wales have no access to good quality youth services, which impacts on their ability to reach their full potential and make positive contributions to society.

Don’t forget young people

A growing number of young people are facing a future of financial hardship. But, by giving young people opportunities to develop relationships with project workers and supporting them in their social activities they will have the best possible chance of success.

Keith Towler, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

“The question I’m asking today is: are young people worth investing in? If we want them to grow into young adults who continue to make positive contributions to their communities, if we want them to grow into parents that can support the next generation of children to be happy and healthy, then the simple answer is yes.

“I meet individuals and groups of young people almost on a weekly basis who are making positive contributions to their communities, be it through volunteering, as a member of a youth forum or a young mayor. These are real role models and future leaders that we should all be supporting and celebrating.

“I want to see a national commitment to this agenda that recognises the value of youth work and how it can help young people to overcome the challenges they face, such as lack of skills and youth unemployment.

“Too often, I hear from young people and practitioners that youth services are undervalued and swamped by conflicting priorities. Youth services shouldn’t be seen as a soft target. I am committed to providing a clear focus on this issue for the remainder of my term as Commissioner.”

Key figures

  • Every young person not in education, employment or training costs around £97,000 over their lifetime, rising to £300,000 depending on the benefits they claim
  • Every £1 invested in youth work generates £8 worth of voluntary activity
  • A project providing a full range of services and in contact with 125 young people a week would cost £75,000 a year, or £16 for each contact
  • It costs around £35,000 to keep one young person in a young offenders institution

(figures obtained from Cardiff Youth Council and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

Other work undertaken by the Commissioner’s team

The annual report and accounts also covers other main areas of work undertaken by the Commissioner’s office over the last 12 months, including details of his first statutory review as Commissioner into advocacy services for vulnerable children and young people. It also contains details of his advice and support work, which saw cases from the following areas:

  • social services, where the main issues related to foster placement and advocacy;
  • education, where the main issues related to complaints and special educational needs; and
  • health, where the main issues related to funding and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The annual report and accounts can be downloaded from or call 01792 765600 for a hard copy.