Youth work professionals across Wales are upset the service has been ignored in Labour's pre-manifesto policy document.
But the Assembly government insists the omission was because officials needed to gauge responses to their plans for a national youth work strategy before putting anything in writing.
The youth service is seen as pivotal to the success of the government's dream of universal provision for 11 to 25-year-olds. Youth workers will work alongside teachers towards this goal, with local authorities compelled to provide for young people in the Assembly government's Extending Entitlement document.
But consultation over the far-reaching proposals that will revolutionise the youth service in Wales only ended last Friday. Doug Nicholls, general secretary of the Community and Youth Workers' Union (CYWU) said the document's omission, setting out Labour's education policies to fight the May Assembly elections, spoke volumes.
"It's puzzling, with all the rhetoric and progressive policies, that when it comes to the hard edge of politics, there doesn't seem to be much commitment in terms of funding," he said.
Rob Edwards, who chairs the principal youth officers' association in Wales, has complained in writing to Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills.
He said: "I think the omission is significant - we're reaching a critical point on developing informal learning."
In its consultation paper on future strategy, the Assembly says many councils are falling short of provision. Veronica Wilson, chief executive of the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services, said: "We feel Labour should have included something about informal education and the role of the youth service in its manifesto.
"The voluntary sector may be informal but it isn't haphazard - we have a curriculum. Most youth work is done by volunteers committed to young people. We're making that point in our response to the consultation paper."
The CYWU has called for more secure, adequate and discrete funding. It claims 2 per cent of the education budget should be spent on youth services, instead of the present 1.01 per cent.