Welsh Government pledges to improve 'declining' youth groups

Members of the Dyffryn Ardudwy youth club
Image caption Residents in Dyffryn Ardudwy are fighting to reopen their youth club after it was closed

A promise has been made to improve youth services following a warning they were in "alarming decline" around Wales.

The Welsh Government said it was beginning a "new, positive chapter" for youth work with the launch of a strategy and the doubling of funding.

It includes targeted support for homelessness and mental health services.

A review by AMs in 2016 criticised ministers for a lack of leadership.

It also warned of an "alarming decline" in youth services for 11 to 25 year olds, while last year education inspectorate Estyn said there had been a fall in the number of traditional council-run youth clubs.

Youth work covers a wide range of services for 11 to 25 year olds, from youth clubs, to tackling homelessness and mental health problems, and also includes youth workers in schools.

As well as council run services, there are a wide range of voluntary organisations working with young people.

Fight for a youth club

Image caption Community councillor Steffan Chambers said young people want somewhere they can play and feel safe

Campaigners in one Gwynedd village have had to raise funds to try to reopen their closed youth club, with residents saying it was important for young people in the rural area to have the opportunity to socialise in a safe environment.

The club in Dyffryn Ardudwy closed as part of county-wide changes to youth services by Gwynedd Council. It is hoped it will reopen in the coming months.

Community councillor Steffan Chambers said the community had been determined to reopen the club as they felt young people needed somewhere accessible to meet up.

"Young people still want to meet up after school and enjoy themselves and have a place where they can play games and feel safe," he said.

Parent Meinir Thomas has helped with the fundraising and says the youth club helps to "get them off the streets and get them off their phones".

"The children will be going out and doing stuff in the community as well," she added.

"There's a beach cleaning campaign that they'll be doing. They can also help tidy up the village, they can help the elderly. There's going to be benefits all round really."

The Welsh Government said it had doubled funding for youth services this year to £10m.

The funding includes £2.5m to support young people's mental health and wellbeing, and a £3.7m to help prevent youth homelessness.

It follows pressures on budgets in previous years and concern from assembly members about a lack of leadership from ministers.

In 2013-14 about 20% of 11 to 25-year-olds were registered members of council youth work provision - by 2017-18 it was 16%.

The total spend on youth work had fallen from more than £40m five years ago to £32m in 2017-18.

The new strategy acknowledges shortcomings in planning and delivery and says some aspects of the system are in "disrepair".

It pledges to map youth work provision and to assess its scope, scale and quality as well as developing a better way of funding it in future.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the strategy sets out a "positive future" for youth work in Wales.

"I want Wales to be a country where young people thrive, with access to opportunities and experiences, in both Welsh and English, which provides enjoyment and enriches their personal development," she added.

Gwynedd council said a new model for delivering youth services had been set up last September which offered one county-wide club moving from community to community rather than 39 more traditional clubs.

A spokesman said: "As part of the new model for youth services, full time youth workers have been appointed and young people can get access to these workers through their schools and in the community."

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