Service on the up finds small is beautiful;Community and youth;FE Focus
Youth work in Scotland has, like England, been subjected to underfunding and variations in services among local authorities. But the problem is being addressed amid a shake-up of community education which leaves England lagging behind.
North of the border, youth work is part of an integrated community education service. This now has a higher profile following a Scottish Office inquiry led by Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector.
His review called for a transformation in community education, and for firmer links to Government objectives in social exclusion and lifelong learning.
Amid the changes, the Scottish Community Education Council was relaunched as Community Education Scotland, and Linda McTavish, principal of Anniesland College Glasgow, was appointed its first chairperson.
Local authorities have been asked to target young people at risk and make community learning plans which cover youth provision. There is also a new inspection framework and national targets come into force this autumn.
Charlie McConnell, chief executive of Community Learning Scotland said:
"People are very bullish up here. We're very excited. We've been through this review which has been a difficult one.
"It's been a hard couple of years since local government reorganisation because of staff losses. But there seems to be a strong feeling of right, we're on the up now."
Roughly pound;75 million a year is spent on community education in Scotland, around half of which has gone on youth services. But Mr McConnell estimates that community learning has been underfunded to the tune of pound;25m a year.
"Scottish local authorities have been in discussion with the Scottish Office that was - and the new ministry that's just about to be set up - to try to get that money. We'll never get it back, but the problem has been recognised.
"We at Community Learning Scotland have been lobbying hard for this and in a sense the case has now been won. All sides, central and local government, now recognise that this is wrong."
Political commitment to youth work runs deep in Scotland. Many politicians have their origins in community education. There are youth forums, youth councils and a youth parliament. Scotland is also helped by its small population.
"It's a small country to network in," said Mr McConnell. "People do know each other and they do network effectively. You can get closer to the civil servants up here. You've got regional devolution down there, but we've had it up here for years.
"And the fact that we have a quango - just for this small country. It's like having National Youth Agencies in all of the regions of England.
"What's very strong up here are two things. One is youth issues. Increasingly the intervention with young people is around real issues in their lives - health, drugs, the environment or whatever.
"The other is that with the new parliament, the rhetoric of civic involvement and consultation is very high at the moment. So we've been encouraged by the Government in our work."