Every Child Matters and Youth Act
Every Child Matters outlines the Government’s approach to the well-being of children and young people from birth to age 19. This means that organisations providing services for children and young people need to work together to protect and support children to achieve what they want and need from life. Through empowering young people to campaign for change, Youth Act supports this agenda and meets the Every Child Matters standards.What is Every Child Matters?
In February 2000, the story of the horrific abuse suffered by Victoria Climbie led to a fundamental review of children’s services in the UK culminating in a report by Lord Laming which helped to formulate the Children’s Act 2004.
Every Child Matters is the Government’s policy agenda which aims to ensure that services provided to children, such as education, health and social services work collectively so that the failings of the Climbie case will never happen again.
Its aim is for every child, whatever their background or their circumstances, to have the support from all the relevant services they need to:
• Be healthy
• Stay safe
• Enjoy and achieve
• Make a positive contribution
• Achieve economic well-being
All services that deal with children and young people are inspected and evaluated against these five outcomes and it is important that organisations and groups are aware of how their work links in to this policy.
How Youth Act responds to the five outcomes of Every Child Matters
1. Stay Safe: being protected from harm and neglect and growing up able to look after themselves
Young people form a disproportionate percentage of victims of crime and are often very concerned with issues of safety. Many Youth Act projects look at issues of safety: in school, in the community and online. The Youth Act training method lends itself well to dealing with these types of issues.
Youth Act also encourages young people to learn about the law so that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities and are able to protect themselves from abuse through this knowledge.
2. Be Healthy: Enjoying good physical and mental health and living a healthy lifestyle
Youth Act encourages young people to participate in physical and mental activities to ensure that they live a healthy life. Young people have to reflect not just on their own individual health and environment but the aim of the sessions, is to get them to think about the environment of people in their community. This often leads participants to consider issues that relate to the health of the community: provision of sports facilities, access of health facilities etc.
Mental well-being is promoted by learning activities which are engaging, promote challenge, allow achievement and are fun. Young people are also supported to make real choices about their learning which promotes mental well-being.
3. Enjoying and achieving: getting the most out of life and developing broad skills for adulthood
Youth Act offers a mix of active learning in a safe and fun environment which encourages young people and adults to engage together in community activism.
Young people will develop key skills that will equip them with a solid foundation for adult life. By agreeing on an issue of mutual concern and planning and implementing a campaign from scratch, participants will be developing their creativity. They will learn advocacy, problem solving, team building, fundraising, communication skills, as well as how to influence decision makers, recruit allies, work effectively with the media and campaign for change.
4. Achieve Economic well-being: not being prevented by economic disadvantage from achieving their full potential in life
Youth Act supports young people in to improve their chances of employment through developing transferable skills necessary for employability such as taking responsibility, team work, letter writing and goal setting. Their participation in Youth Act, which they may use to work towards a Youth Achievement Award, will also make a valuable contribution to their CV.
The young people targeted as Youth Act participants tend to be ‘hard to reach’ young people from communities with high levels of social exclusion. The Youth Act project is highly accessible:
-all YA training is free, and all materials inclusive (for example, not dependent on high literacy levels)
-YA activities take place in the communities where the young people live
-through Youth Act resources and presentations, young people meet people just like them giving them the feeling that they can achieve just as much
This accessibility is enhanced through the participation of supportive adults from young people’s local communities.
5. Making a positive contribution: to the community and to society and not engaging in anti-social or offending behaviour
Participants will identify an issue of concern to them and their local community, for example crime, bullying or drugs. Their campaigns directly address the chosen issue and have a direct impact on the quality of life, safety, security and happiness of young people and other members of their local communities.
Youth Act aims to empower young people with lifelong confidence, skills and motivation for participatory citizenship that can be applied in a range of contexts, for example acting as representatives on school councils or getting involved in local community groups. As a result of this project, young people, who are often attracted to ‘single issue’ politics rather than party politics, will become more aware of the connection between local issues and wider/national politics, which may in turn encourage more of them to vote in elections and participate in political activity in the long term.
Many Youth Act groups choose to confront and tackle anti-social behaviour as their campaign issue, with participants gaining the capacity to direct their energy in positive and ‘pro-social’ ways.