Loughton calls for overhaul of local authority youth services

Local authority youth services are in need of a complete overhaul, the junior children’s minister has claimed.

Speaking to delegates at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ annual conference, Tim Loughton said councils need to think “more imaginatively” about youth provision in the tough economic climate.

“I don’t think the monopoly that local authorities have over the delivery and commissioning of youth services is necessarily the way to go,” he explained.

“I want to see more imaginative partnerships between local authorities and the voluntary sector and others. I don’t just mean picking off odd bits of activity that are going to be contracted out, I mean thinking about the way the whole offer of youth services is constructed with local authorities.”

Loughton confirmed there will be an event in two weeks to annouce the next steps for the government’s flagship youth programme, National Citizen Service. A Department for Education spokeswoman said the event would set out further how voluntary sector partnerships could be used to deliver youth services.

In a wide-ranging address, Loughton assured professionals that Eileen Munro’s review of the child protection system would not duplicate the work of the Social Work Taskforce.

He explained: “What’s happened in the past is that many reviews happened as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest high-profile tragedy and the government has been straight-jacketed into saying, ‘yes, we’ll accept all of the recommendations’.”

He also argued that children’s services departments need to get better at sharing best practice, and that government should facilitate this. “We frequently hear about a scheme or initiative that’s achieving excellent results in addressing a particular problem in one authority, but that’s completely unheard of in another authority that is just next door,” he said.

“Lincolnshire is the first local authority to receive an outstanding Ofsted review of safeguarding practice. We need to think of ways of disseminating how they do it.”

Loughton added that Ofsted should offer improvement support to councils and be a “critical friend” as opposed to simply ticking boxes at inspections.

Loughton will be joining children’s minister Sarah Teather in organising a series of events that will bring together directors of children’s services and lead members to share best practice.