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Councils regain youth territory

The Government has been forced to reconsider allowing the new Connexions service to dictate policy to the youth service following local education authority opposition.

Revised guidance on the youth service, soon to be published by the Department for Education and Skills, will now stress councils' important role in running youth activities, including those beyond the 13 to 19 age group.

Connexions, which is nearly fully operational across the country, will now have to take into account wider youth provision. In return, councils will still have to prioritise far more of their work according to the demands of Connexions and its personal advisers. Forging a close relationship between the two and avoiding duplication is seen as fundamental to Connexions'

success.

In the forthcoming document, minister for young people, Ivan Lewis, and Connexions head Anne Weinstock will say: "We do not expect to see the youth service and the Connexions service operating wholly independently of each other and will expect to see evidence of day-to-day partnerships working through linked plans and identified joint working arrangements."

Local councils' statutory responsibilities for the youth service will "not be destabilised or diluted" by these new shared working arrangements, they promise.

However, the document will order that "not less" than four-fifths of councils' existing youth work resources should be focused over the next two years on tackling issues such as drug abuse among teenagers, particularly those at risk of drifting towards crime. The remaining 20 per cent of money should continue to be spent on other programmes for the under-13s and over-19s.

An earlier draft envisaged all provision for 13 to 19-year-olds being "an integral part" of Connexions, according to the Local Government Association, which lobbied for the change.

The LGA had argued there was a danger councils would be left with little scope for local discretion in catering for a wide age group. Uniformed services such as Cubs and Brownies for eight-year-olds risked being squeezed out, claimed Neil Fletcher, LGA director of education and lifelong learning. He added: "The idea that youth provision ends at age 19 is nonsense. Imagine seeing a young person on drugs roll over into the gutter, and then telling him, 'excuse me, I can't help you if you are over 19.

"The original notion that local councils would put resources into the youth service, but Connexions would decide how to spend them, was oppressive. But a compromise has now been reached and we will be monitoring council spending to make sure the new youth service is properly funded."

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