Critically analyse past initiatives and current government proposals to dramatically expand youth provision in order to improve life chances of young people
There are many proposals and polices that governments have brought in to both expand youth provision and improve life chances, this essay will cover those brought in by the Conservative party under Margaret Thatcher and New labour. I will be discussing what the Conservatives and New labour did to expand youth provision and whether their polices were successful, this will include analysing if these polices really improved the life chances for youths. For the conservatives under Thatcher her main youth policy was the Youth training scheme and for New Labour there were many new policies brought in too expand youth provision such as Connexions and the Crime Disorder Act.
Margaret Thatcher became the conservative leader in 1975 and was elected prime minister in 1979 and remained in power for 11 years. Thatcher's views on young people were that if young people were unemployed then it was their fault and the government was not going to do anything to help. Thatcher decided that it should be individual's responsibility and not the states. At the end of Thatcher's first term of becoming prime minster the amount of unemployed people in Britain rose above 3 million and many of these were youths. (Chapman and cook, 1988) One of the Key parts of growing up is feeling part of a society and 'belonging'. When Thatcher was Prime minister, the gap between rich and poor was bigger than it had ever been. (Townsend, 1979 in Chapman and Cook, 1988) Society was generally more marginalised; this is grouping of people who have somehow become 'detached' and feel themselves excluded. This is a clear view that polices which had been brought in under Thatcher had a damaging effect on those who were dependent on the government. (Chapman and Cook, 1988)
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Marginalisation affects on society are well defined in this quote of Townsend below. According to Townsend (1986), as well as the unemployed, many other sections of society, 'â€¦.not only feel they have no part in it. They have no part in it. This fosters acute frustration and deep alienation from authority. People say their lives have become meaningless because their skills have become outdated, their potentialities ignored, and their worth depreciated.' Townsend adds that these groups "are not even second class, they are more truly, marginal citizens'. (Chapman and cook, 1988, p43) Marginalisation affects families in many ways it places large amounts of pressure on them to try to fit in to normal society; the reasons for this pressure would mainly be financially. Youths could find them selves socially excluded because of marginalisation for many reasons for example, their families not being able to afford new school uniforms which could result in the child being bullied. This and other problems formed from marginalisation would greatly affect the life chances of the child.
The conservative government attempted to 'reform' the welfare state, one of the aspects they aimed to improve was to help young people who were unemployed aged 16 -25 as unemployment was identified as a major problem in the late 1980's. Thatcher aimed to solve the problem of high unemployment among youths by introducing a youth training programme in 1988, this aimed to help youths find jobs and help them get 'back on track.' This youth scheme introduced opportunities for work experience in the work place, training initiatives and social skill building. (Chapman and Cook, 1988) Although the Youth Opportunities Programme offered a number of young people relevant training and a permanent job afterwards, it was not successful in offering all young people permanent jobs. The young people also had criticism of the YTS (Youth Training Scheme) (Rees and Atkinson, 1982; Cross et al, 1983; Finn, 1984a; Roberts and Kirby, 1985; Benn and Fairly, 1986 in Chapman and Cook, 1988). A number of young people did not take up the YTS places as they were unhappy with the pay, conditions and the quality of training as a result of this the drop out rates were very high. (Wellens, 1983, in Chapman and Cook, 1988)
The effects of the YTS appear to have little hope of young people moving out of their marginal status in economy or society. Especially for black young people as the chances were even worse. On average, only one in three black graduates were likely to find work within three months of leaving the Youth Training Scheme. (Youthaid, 1986 in Chapman and Cook, 1988) The Youth training scheme did not always guarantee work afterwards for youths. This would mean that not all youths got equal chances at life under this scheme. The YTS aimed to improve life chances and equal opportunities for all race's and both genders, however the scheme failed to achieve this and racial and sexist favouritism existed. (Fawcett Society, 1985, Cockburn, 1986 in Chapman and Cook 1988) Young women were not being introduced into non traditional work and if they were, they experienced difficulties such as sexual harassment also many black youths were placed in the poorer sections of the YTS which made it harder for them to be offered major job opportunities.
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Although Thatcher clearly saw there was a problem with youth unemployment the outcomes of the YTS although it had been successful for some people this was not the case for the majority of youths. The youths that it was not successful for would more likely face risks in later life. For example starting a family and living their life independently.
New labour came in to power in 1997 their Political objectives for youth policy could be divided in to four goals. These goals were to have;
Active Citizenship, 'to give youths 'rights and responsibilities',
Lifelong Learning, 'which is 'all about the education',
Social Exclusion 'about giving youths a hand up, not a hand out'
Community Safety 'to be tough on the cause of crime'.
(Williamson, 2007, Pg34)
New Labour's main concerns with youths were 'educational underachievement, youth unemployment, teenage pregnancy, youth homelessness, substance misuse, offending behaviour and family estrangement. These concerns that New Labour had were the problems that they based their youth policy agenda on. (Williamson, 2007)
Some of the Initiatives that new labour brought in to help meet the needs of young people were: Connexions, sexual health awareness, youth justice and youth inclusion through positives activities and under the Crime and Disorder Act there are initiatives such as: Anti - Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO's), Curfews, Child Safety Orders and Parenting orders. (Williamson, 2007)
Connexions were established in 2001 and they aimed to try and improve young peoples life chances by providing advice and support. (Department for Children, schools and families, 2009) Connexions would provide support for young people aged 13 to 19 years of age and they would try and help them to getting to where they wanted in life. They also provide support for people with learning difficulties or disabilities up to the age of 25. Connexions paid a lot of their attention to young people who are not in education, unemployed or socially excluded. (Connexions Services, no date)
Connexions were set up to make a big change in the way that support was given to young people. The Labour Government's aim was to better the way that services work with young people, they wanted bring services together and by joined up thinking they would then have a holistic view of a young person needs. Another aim of the Connexions strategy was to try and provide a 'ladder out of social exclusion' and try and build stronger communities. Tony Blair (SEUb 1999: 6) suggests, 'The best defence against social exclusion is having a job, and the best way to get a job is to have a good education, with the right training and experience'. 'The notion of social exclusion has only been used in the UK for only a short period of time, although before social exclusion may have existed there was not a suitable name which described it best'. (Page 2000:4) Social exclusion is not only a matter of people not being able to access essential goods, it is also about the nature of social relationships that young people will engage in, for example losing your job results in a drop of income also people may lose important relationships which were fostered by the workplace. This drew attention to individuals in groups such as unemployment and people lacking marketable skills which led young people being pushed into a marginal status. 'It is this sort of thinking mixed with cultural notions of an underclass and analyses of profound structural change) that informed the establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit. (Wilson, 1996) The Unit describes social exclusion as a 'shorthand label for what can happen when individuals or areas suffer from a number of problems such as, unemployment, poor skills, low income, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown (SEU, 1998) The Social exclusion unit helps both individuals and the neighbourhoods.
There has been no evidence that working with other agencies works. Although it sounds like a brilliant idea and seem relatively easy to do, there have been many problems with partnerships.
Within Connexions there is not only huge focus on social exclusion and joined up thinking and individualisation but there is also a lot of attention on the following issues these are, Targets, Knowledge Economy, transitions and surveillance These are all Key to what New Labour aimed to achieve with
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Connexions. (Jeffs and Smith, 2001)
Connexions target is:
"It will be an outcome-driven service, allowing local discretion over delivery, but with clear targets to cover the multi-agency nature of its work. The principal targets will relate to participation and attainment in education, training or work, since it is clear from the Bridging the Gap report and other research that participation has a major impact on a young person's more general 'well-being'. (DfEE 2000)" They will also be working with a young person's concerns and interests and will be a universal and targeted service.
As Watts (2001) pointed out some time ago, 'universality was a second-order consideration'(Smith, 2005) which meant that things like careers guidance and transforming youth work were neglected. Hoggarth and Smith (2005) concluded to say 'that Connexions looks like two services than one' (Smith, 2005)
Although Connexions have this target to be working with young people to have major impacts on their life's, there are serious problems with Connexions and the way that they come about helping young people, as Connexions seem to in a lot of cases help those who do not want help first and the people who need the help come second best. (Watts 2001)
This would affect the life chances for young people as they could miss out on crucial things later in life due to the fact that Connexions put the wrong people first in the line of help.
A key concept for Connexions was the governments concern with the Knowledge economy and the learning society. Connexions aimed to improve this by trying to reduce crime by tackling the first signs of social exclusion from the streets, for example graffiti and people sleeping rough. This is what they believed would improve the quality of life for young people. When thinking of practical skills that young people need, there is also belief that improving levels of literacy, numeracy and the ability to use a computer will increase the potential of getting a high paid job later in life. Nowadays young people are growing up where it is not a smooth transition from school to work life, because of the skills that are required from them; it is a lot harder to find a job. Three decades ago young people moved from school directly into employment with no training, this was just expected from them and they would often stay with there employer until they retire. Today people move in and out of jobs and education throughout their lives(Field 2000; Tuckett, 1997, Dfee 1997) Re-training has become the 'NORM' because the skills that are required from employees means that they are constantly having to update their skills, the same thing also applies to young people trying to find a job.
In the current Knowledge economy the transition between young people living with their parents and moving to your own home has become more complex (Fitzatrick 2000; Furlong and Cartmel, 1997) reasons could include student debts and unemployment.
Strong focus on surveillance is also a key aim of Connexions. Connexions strategy keeps detailed record on individual young people, mainly on those deemed to be at risk of social exclusion and other risks such as employment, bad health or those that need special monitoring. Different agencies could use the information on a certain young person to help them, this and working together as agencies will help young people try and come out of social exclusion and try and find a job. Other types of surveillance is also being used to keep an eye on young people, CCTV cameras are being put up outside shops to keep close eye on youths causing trouble. There also has been an initiative to keep young people away from certain areas were they are being intimidating. This initiative was called the Mosquito initiative
This is a high pitched noise that is generally only heard by young people aged under the age of 25. This is to try and stop youths drinking and hanging around street corners and shop windows not necessary causing trouble but they can be very intimidating. There seems to be a positive effect from this as it has reduced the number of young people hanging outside shops. The problem with the mosquito initiative is that it targets every young person under the age of 25 and it is not fair as not all young people are causing trouble or being intimidating. Shop keepers may loose customers from this initiative because young people who use the shop and are not causing trouble are not going to use the shop because they will still hear the noise. (BBC News, 2005)
The Crime and disorder act was introduced in 1998 to target crime and anti social behaviour. Tony Blair told voters that Labour Government would take a 'zero tolerance' approach to crime and he will be 'tough on crime'. Due to this Labour Government was to fast track punishment and to do this they brought in community safety orders. These were called anti-social behaviour orders (ASBO'S), this was to deal with threatening and disruptive youths as Jack Straw wanted to try and help build safer communities and to do this he was to target troublemakers to allow people in communities to be free from harassment. (Guardian, 2009) These ASBO's often include restrictions on entering a certain area or a shop but it can also include bans on particular acts, such as swearing in public. (BBC News, 2002)
The Problem with ASBO's is that they are sometimes used to target young people, although many forms of anti-social behaviour can be alarming or distressing they are often not criminal acts, for example playing loud music, if a youth was to break the conditions of his or her ASBO this could lead to a sentence of up to five years in prison. This would affect their life chances, as if a young person has been in prison they would get a criminal record and the young person will find it very hard to get a job after prison. Another problem is that since ASBO's have been brought in there has been more youths sent to prison as ASBO's have been seen as 'cool' and have a been associated with a 'bad boy image' and in some cases youths have been know to 'show off' there ASBO's and even trying to get the more ASBO's than their friends which shows the policy is not helping the problem of youth crime and only helping to further restrict life chances. (Smith, 2005) (Hampshire Constabulary, no date)
Three of the other main provisions under the Crime and Disorder act are: Child Safety Orders, which Aim at reducing the risk of children under 10 slipping into crime, this normally last three months and place the child under the supervision of either a social worker or a member of a Youth Offending Team. Parenting Orders, this requires parents to take action to change the behaviour of their children between 10 and 17, and the third is a Local Child Curfew scheme, Local authorities can set up these and it requires a young person to remain for set periods of time at a specific place, this can be given along side other community orders. This time period can be between 2 -12 hours a day and the sentence can last more that six months for 16 year olds and three months under the age of 16. (YJB, no date) Both the ASBO's and Curfews can be seen as cleaning up the streets to get rid of any sort of unacceptable behaviour. (Flecter, 2005)
Although some people may think that Curfews are getting rid of young people who are causing bad behaviour, Gelsthorpe and Morris would suggest that Curfews 'can penalise normal behaviour as being 'suspicious'', (Jones, no date:18)
The problem with parenting orders is' that it may cause tension between the parent and young person and may lead to more parents requesting the local authority to accommodate their children.' (Jones, no date:18)
To make young people aware of sexual health, the New Labour government set up a sexual health awareness campaign this was brought in February 2007, its target groups were young people aged 18 -25. Their aim was to promote safer sex and raise awareness of sexual health issues such as transmitted infections including Chlamydia, HIV and AIDS, and to also raise awareness about the risk of unplanned pregnancy's, and to make young people aware of the types of contraception available. Finally to provide advice and support relating to sexual health. (Health Promotion Agency, 2007)
Although this is a positive campaign the problem with it is that the advertisement were on radio stations, and the radio station that they were advertised on young people may not listen to, the radio stations were Downtown radio, Cool Fm, City beat and Q102. Advertisement for sexual health awareness could have been on put on television or even in posters in clubs, young people would then see this whenever they are out or at home. For life chances, young people who have not been aware of sexual health may have life threatening infections or cause infertility which could make it harder to start a family later in life, for most sexually transmitted infections they are curable and will not effect many life chances, however if the government set up a campaign which is readily available to all young people sexual transmitted infections may be reduced.
'Young people today growing up in the modern world are 'facing new risks and more opportunities'. (Furlong and Cartmel, 2007:8 in Wood and Hine, 2009) There are significant differences between groups of young people; in particular there is a growing divide between young people who stay on in education and gain qualifications, and those who leave school at the age of 16 or 17, for the second group there is a serious risk of them getting a low paid job and they could face periods of unemployment because they are not qualified. (Batsleer, 2008 in Wood and Hine, 2009) Due to the recession we are facing in the UK today it is very hard to find a job, or if you have a job then many people are getting made redundant. In the last three months of 2008 one in four young people age between 18 and 24 were being made redundant. (Local Government Association, 2009)
Jobs now want more educated and trained people. This is leaving a lot of young people unemployed as they have no further education. Pathways from post 16 educations have been brought in to increase training opportunities and increase young people's skills. The government has recognised that in today's knowledge economy young people are required to attend further education or training, from this the government plan to increase the Compulsory learning age to 18; this new Act will raise the education leaving age to 17 in 2013 and to 18 from 2015. This law is to give young people more opportunities later in life. Research has shown that people who stay in education after the age of 16 are less likely to commit crimes, suffer from ill health and get involved in anti-social behaviour. This new law does not mean that young people have to stay in full - time education. Young people will be able to choose if they want to carry on in full time education for example school or college, or they can take an apprenticeship, or undertake part-time training if they are working or volunteering for more than 20 hours per week.' (Direct Gov, 2008)
A positive initiative that was brought in to encourage young people to carry on to further education was the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), this comes in weekly instalments of either ten pound, twenty pound or thirty pound depending on your parents household income, so not every young person will receive this. However, young people will only receive this if they regularly attend and work hard on their course, as well as this if students do well on their course and attend regularly they will receive bonuses.
This is not giving all young people equal opportunities in life, as not all young people receive EMA. Another problem is that what young people spend this money on, they may well spend this money wastefully and even things such as drugs, and if they were not receiving EMA then they may not be able to afford drugs in the first place. (DirectGov, no date)
In 2008 the aiming high for young people strategy was brought in this was a ten year implementation plan for positive activities which sets to improve leisure time opportunities, activities and support services for young people in England. (National Youth Agency, 2001)) This strategy was implemented to make young people feel more comfortable within their community; young people nowadays are faced with the challenge of growing up in a culture which has a widespread negative perception of young people. This strategy aims to do more to try and rebalance the way the public perceive young people, as some young people/children are seen as 'evil' especially since Jamie Bulger's murder in 1993 and this is another reason why youth behaviours are being targeted in the way they are.
Youth inclusion programmes have been brought in to try and get young people off the streets and to get them more involved in activities so that they will feel more welcome in their community.
"The Youth Justice board is committed to promoting equal opportunities, and eradicating discrimination, so that staff and those receiving youth justice services are dealt with fairly regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any disability." (YJB, no date) The Youth justice system includes programmes such as the Youth inclusion programme (YIP) this was established in 2000 and is a programme for 8 - 17 year olds who are at risk of anti-social behaviour. The YIP's are based in areas which are high in crime rates. This Programme gives youths somewhere safe to go to learn new skills and even take part in activities, they will also be help with their education if they are having any trouble, and YIP will also provide careers advice. (YJB, no date)
This is another positive programme, and seems like it would work really well in reducing the number of youths causing trouble and hanging around being intimidating, however there is still high numbers of youths on the streets committing crimes that is why things such as ASBO's and Curfew orders were brought in by the government, but still after these orders were brought into place youth crime is still a present problem.
Another problem amongst young people within the UK is recreational drug use. The UK has one of the highest levels of recreational drug use in Europe and among young people is becoming ever popular with an increasing trend of young people wanting to experience drugs. (UKDPC, 2007) Over the past 30 years it has become an increasingly common feature of British life. Most young people nowadays have either had contact with drugs or experienced them. In most cases it is cannabis, and only a small minority do go on to take drugs such as Heroin and Crack and then become dependent and troubled users. However the young people that do become dependant and have serious problems have increased hugely since the 1970's. There are people that are more vulnerable to drug use, and these tend to be people and in communities that also suffer social exclusion. Socially excluded groups such as children in care of local authorities, offenders, school truants and those with parents who use drugs tend to report higher rates of drug use. (Budd et al, 2005a, Goulden and Sondhi, 2001) More harmful patterns of drug use are typically seen in people who are unemployed or unqualified or in financial difficulties and the homeless. (Coulthard et al, 2002, Wadsworth et al, 2004)
Mental health can also be a problem with drug use. Cannabis has been linked with three types of mental health problems: Schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. However, the vast majority of Cannabis users do not go on to be mentally ill. (Hunt et al. 2006) Other Dugs such as Ecstasy has been know to cause long-term mental health and cognitive impairment, including memory loss. (Morgan, 2000) Drug use can critically affect the life chances of young people as for many youths who get involved with drugs go on to have later problems in life such as debt due to addiction by spending more on drugs than they can afford.
Many young people today have heard about drugs at an early age and need educated about them and there effects. If young people become dependant on drugs it may become a serious problem and it may lead to them committing crimes, such as stealing to fund their drug use and even go down the road of prostitution. (Goldstein, 1985) This links with the sexual awareness campaign, if young people do not know about the effects of unsafe sex then prostitution may lead to a high number of young people with sexually transmitted infections. Life chances can be heavily affected by the use of drugs and can likely become a problem when trying to find a job and many employers will not employ you if you have a criminal record.
In the 1980's and Early 1990's there was the 'just say no' advertising campaign. This was to try and discourage children from engaging in recreational drug use by offering various ways of saying no. Due to this campaign more young people were saying no to drugs, Nancy Reagan spoke to the public about drugs and increased their awareness of the problem. Today there is Frank, which is a similar campaign which gives young people advice on drugs and effects of them. The website 'Frank' also has stories on there from people who have badly experienced drugs, or family or friends who have been affected by drugs. This will help young people because some of the best advice comes from someone who has been through it all. (Frank, no date)
The Labour Government has hardly neglected the problem of illegal drugs. However on the long term, prevention programmes have failed to achieve their main aim of reducing drug use. Drug use amongst young people has risen the most over the last decade and today still remains very high. (UKDPC, 2007)
Even if the current government can do little to reduce overall rates of drug use, they could make better use of available evidence, (as discussed above) they could have choose polices that, effectively reduce drug related death, crime, physical and mental health problems and other harms to the communities the Government should be willing to put money into such a rising problem.
Child Protection UK have started to bring in books called 'from the heart' these books educate children on the effects of drugs and alcohol. They also want to start going into schools to talk to young people about this. This may be a very effective way of getting young people to listen and understand the full impact of drugs could have on their life's and hence their life chances.
One of the main goals of England's children and youth policy were set out in Every Child Matters (Department for Education and Skills, 2003) this was followed by youth matters. (Department for Education and Skills, 2005) Youth Matters declared that young people should have more places to go in their local area and have more opportunities to volunteer and to make contribution to their local community this included better support when they need extra help to deal with problems and to have better information, advice and guidance about issues that matter to them and for this information to be given to them in a way they would benefit from. Youth matters came up with 5 outcomes which are:
Staying safe: from Maltreatment, Neglect, Violence, Sexual Exploitation, accidental injury and death, bullying and discrimination, crime and anti-social behaviour in and out of school, have security and stability and cared for.
Being Healthy: so that they are physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually healthy and have a healthy lifestyle and choose not to take drugs.
Enjoying and Achieving: so that young people are ready for school and attend and enjoy school, to achieve national standards and to achieve personal and social development and enjoy recreation.
Making a positive contribution: to engage in decision making, support their community and environment, engage in law - abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school, develop self confidence, successfully deal with significant life changes.
Achieving Economic well- being: so that they engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school, are ready for employment, live in decent homes â€¦.. Live in households free from low income. (DFES, 2005)
The policy aims to listen to the voice of young people and to promote engagement especially in areas of deprivation. These aims/outcomes will try to aim to stop social exclusion and aim to improve better life chances for young people.
When looking back over the main points of youth matters whether or whether not the government achieved what it set out to do is open to debate. When thinking about the aim Staying Safe is the government doing enough to try to keep young people safe and did any of the polices brought in by labour dramatically change life chances for young people. The message about young people is seen on one hand as 'in need' (Every Child Matters/Youth Matters) but on the other 'deviant' and in need of surveillance and control (Crime and Disorder act 1998/ Curfews/ASBO's.) Looking at what New labour have brought in to try and reduce crime (ASBO's) and Curfew schemes this appears to have only made more of a problem with youth crime with higher rates of them being sent to prison due to the undesired popularity of youths with ASBO's this only further restricts young people life chances.
Being Healthy aims stands to improve the chances of healthy life among the youths the Labour Government are trying to stop and lower the intake of drug by campaigns such as Frank. However the trends in drug use show no decline in users even with the campaigns put in place and therefore drug use is still heavily affected life chances with its drug-related problems which leads to young people not being healthy.
Enjoying and Achieving, the labour government have got a good policy which is the keeping children in school until they are 18, the only problem is that some young people may not like this and may not enjoy this as youth may feel that at 16 they should be free to make there own choices. Although there are different options young people can take for example doing a modern apprentership, young people may not want to do this and just do it because they have to and hence put little effort into and not 'achieve' and more than likely not 'enjoy' it. However, young people will be rewarded with things like the EMA which is a positive initiative and this would help them to enjoy the training experience and may encourage them into achieving a good level of skills while achieving, this is not for all young person though and it depends on the household income of their parents, this is not giving an equal chance for every young person.
This leads on to Achieving Economic Well-Being, the government wants children to be free from low income within their household, this is not the case for every young person in England because nowadays things like the recession is not something we can get away from, so not every young person will be free from low income households, which means that not every child is getting a equal start in life and not getting equal life chances. Williamson (2007) suggests that many young people are 'less employable' This is probably because of the recession as not a many people can afford to go on to higher education this leaves them less educated and therefore less employable.
The final aim is Making a positive contribution, the idealistic view of this aim try's to prepare young people for life ahead and make a positive impact on their community. Here the aiming high for young people strategy aimed to provide positive activities to make them feel comfortable within their community. Youth inclusion programmes (YIP's) were also brought in as another positive programme. The government seems to be achieving the aim of making a positive contribution. However problems are still occurring, many youths are still causing trouble on the streets, things such as hanging around shops being intimidating also some youths are breaking their ASBO's because they think it is 'cool'.
When looking back over my essay I believe that polices that have been brought in have not changed the provision of youths dramatically. Although today Labour government seems to have brought in more polices than the Conservative government did, youth problems are still occurring and there are still a lot of unemployed youths, crime is just as high as before and recreational drug use is at one of the highest levels it has been for years.