30 September 2019
The annual Labour Party Conference took place in Brighton on 21st – 24th September. London Youth was there on behalf of the 450+ community youth organisations in our network to make the case for great youth work and improving the lives of young Londoners.
Watch out for further updates from Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on 29th September – 1st October.
1) Young people are high on the agenda
Young people were prominent in conference speeches by the Shadow Cabinet and in policy discussions around the conference.
In Jeremy Corbyn’s keynote conference speech, he announced that Labour will campaign on abolishing youth rates so young people receive the same minimum wage as older people and referenced serious violence in the context of public services. This follows Jo Swinson’s announcement at the Liberal Democrat Conference that they will campaign on providing local authorities with the necessary funding to re-establish local youth services.
High-level political commitment to address the challenges facing young people is a positive step for the sector and would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
2) Expect a statutory youth service policy announcement
Last year, Labour consulted on a policy proposal for a statutory youth service; you can read London Youth’s submission here. We now know the final policy will be announced in the week of 30th September.
The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP announced the policy:
“…we aren’t encouraging more school exclusions. Kids should be in school, otherwise they will be schooled by gangs. We will tackle mental health care under-funding and inequalities. We will build new homes and outlaw zero hours. We will tackle the causes of crime. So, I can tell you, we will soon be announcing details of an entirely new Youth Service to address all the issues of educational exclusion, inequality and deprivation among our young people.”
Cat Smith MP, Shadow Youth Affairs Minister, emphasised that “youth work is a distinct educational process” distinct from formal education and social work, and that the proposal will be separate from Labour’s National Education Service policy.
Cat Smith noted that they are looking to produce a long-term plan for youth work that includes a “major workforce strategy” and guarantees “minimum standards for every young person” in legislation. She said that she saw the major challenges facing young people as educational pressure, loneliness, and violence and the fear of crime.
3) Wellbeing is a priority
Jon Ashworth MP, Shadow Health & Social Care Secretary, announced plans for a new ‘Future Generations Wellbeing Act’. He said that the legislation would address health inequalities and commit Government to consider happiness and wellbeing, noting that “children will be our priority”.
He also noted that he would like to see “trauma informed policies across the board”, taking young people’s trauma and adverse childhood experiences into account when designing and delivering health services to young people.
4) The role of local and regional government is up for debate
Due to the changing role of local authorities in delivering youth services over the last decade, there has been increased policy discussion in Westminster about the need for greater regional and local coordination of public services, including youth provision.
Jim McMahon MP, Shadow Housing, Communities & Local Government Secretary, spoke about the need to move beyond and build on the current devolution settlement, particularly for the different parts of England, including London. In response to our question about the future role of local government in youth services, the shadow minister said that there should be statutory youth councils with decision-making powers as well as a statutory duty on local authorities to deliver youth services. He said, “young people should decide the services that they want.” Responding to the same question, Mayor of Newham Rokshana Fiaz agreed with the need for a statutory duty on local authorities and spoke about local authorities being forced to implement austerity by central government and the impact this has had on violence.
London Youth also contributed to a roundtable on local youth partnerships led by NYA and including the Chair of the APPG on Youth Affairs Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Step Up To Serve, Barnardo’s, and the Local Government Association. We emphasised the need to achieve a balance between strategy for London and other regions with the ability for community youth organisations to have a meaningful say in what is needed in their local areas. The idea of local youth partnerships was proposed in Labour’s statutory youth services consultation and are envisioned as semi-statutory boards that would coordinate youth provision in local areas.