Happiness will be more than adequate

6th September 1996 at 01:00
One word would make Tom Wylie, new chief executive of the NYA, happy. It is "sufficient", and he is leading a campaign for it to replace "adequate" as the amount of youth work which local authorities must provide.

"A very simple amendment to an education bill could help bring this about, " he said.

It has taken several revolutions to get Agenda for a Generation this far. A coalition of almost every regulatory body in youth work, it includes representatives of the statutory and voluntary system in all four British nations as well as principal officers and the Community and Youth Workers Union.

Two years ago such a campaign would have been unthinkable. The National Youth Agency, as a Government quango, was debarred from activities perceived as critical of official policy, which proved increasingly problematic for the then chief executive, the energetic Janet Paraskeva.

Complicating matters were sometimes difficult relationships between Ms Paraskeva and the civil servant responsible for the agency within the Department for Education, Margaret D'Armenia. But both women have now moved on, Ms Paraskeva to the National Lottery Charities Board and the civil servant to early retirement. The latter's final act at the Department for Education, however, helped give the NYA its freedom by recommending it lose quango status and receive funding channelled through the local authority associations.

The effect of the change has been to give Mr Wylie and the agency freedom to act as advocate for young people and youth work as never before. As well as local authority associations, the board now includes representatives of the voluntary sector and young people and is chaired by John Bevan, the further education Ombudsman.

Mr Wylie, who left the Office for Standards in Education to join the NYA, attributes much of his success in forming his "rainbow coalition" to his Northern Irish background, which eases relations with fellow Celts.

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