The right start in life is crucial for a person’s long-term development. It is for this reason that YMCA works with people from birth through to adulthood – supporting individuals and families to flourish.
With the introduction of the Flying Start scheme, significant progress has been made over the past three years to ensure young people get off to the right start in life.
Last year, the scheme supported more than 37,000 families in Wales; however, YMCA is continuing to see too many young people in need go without support and believes the Welsh Government should expand the scheme to work with more families across Wales.
The provision and role of health visitors should be at the centre of early intervention support for all families in Wales. Health visitors are in a unique position to offer and coordinate practical family-centred support but first the Welsh Government must invest in recruitment, training and organisation.
In addition, YMCA wants to see the Welsh Government further open up access to affordable childcare to help children and parents flourish and breakdown inequalities.
Given the important role that childcare can play in unlocking the potential of a young person and family, YMCA believes that a review should be undertaken of the childcare provision in Wales, to better consider how the support needs of parents in Wales can be met.
While it was right to initially focus the attention of the Integrated Family Support Services primarily on those 20,000 children in need, there are many more families across Wales who are seeking low levels of support. However, they are currently being ignored due to the high threshold levels set for this programme.
While it is recognised that this programme cannot provide intensive support to all families, YMCA believes the Welsh Government should work with local authorities to develop the Integrated Family Support Services programme to ensure families with lower level needs are still able to be appropriately signposted and are able to access preventative support and advice services.
To support this, YMCA believes that the Families First budget, which provides funding to improve outcomes for children, young people and families in Wales, should be extended to the end of the next Assembly.
YMCA is also calling on the Welsh Government to pilot innovative approaches during school holidays in the most deprived areas of Wales to ensure families can continue to access support work as their children get older.
Building on the success of initiatives such as East Renfrewshire Council’s Holiday Programme, the Welsh Government should look to develop schemes that provide sport, physical activity and creative activities to promote health and wellbeing during the school holidays, something that was identified as beneficial by the young people consulted.
Another of the most significant issues raised were debt and money concerns. These concerns are understandable given an estimated 150,000 children in Wales live in families who are experiencing problem debt, and that young people themselves are beginning to accrue significant amounts of debt.
The negative effects of problem debt are significant, impacting an individual’s physical and mental health as well as housing, employment and relationships.
It is important that people begin learning money management and budgeting skills at a young age. Accordingly, YMCA is calling on the Welsh Government to help individuals and families manage and fight the threat of problem debt by incentivising credit unions to offer saving schemes and training, particularly, targeted at young people.
To further protect and support families and young people in Wales, the issue of crime also needs to be considered by the Welsh Government. Over the past five years youth crime has nearly halved, but those involved in developing this manifesto believed more could be done, in particular by utilising peer-led approaches to educate individuals on the impact and consequences of crime.
While overall crime has reduced, reoffending rates remain high, with more than a third of those leaving young offender institutions going on to commit another crime. To reduce these levels, it is vital that young offenders are given appropriate support to help them transition back in to their communities.
Accordingly, young offenders should be provided with a range of support, including help securing accommodation and building relationships with their families before they leave custody, to provide them with a stable base on which they can start to rebuild their lives.
Finally, it is important that the Welsh Government prioritises the support offered to those young people who go above and beyond for their families – young carers.
There are officially 29,000 young carers in Wales but, given the nature of unpaid care within families, in reality, the actual numbers are likely to be significantly higher. With so many adult responsibilities, young carers told us how they can miss out on opportunities that other young people take for granted. Without adequate support, young carers disproportionately struggle with their health, as well as with education and employment.
Despite having moved up the political agenda, there is still little qualitative or quantitative research into the impact that having caring responsibilities has on young people in Wales and what support they feel would best support them and their families.
As a result, YMCA is calling on the Welsh Government to undertake a nationwide piece of research into the needs of young and young adult carers in Wales early within the next Assembly and for this to inform the strategy and service delivery for the next five years.
- Expand the Flying Start scheme to work with more families.
- Increase the number of health visitors operating across all areas of Wales.
- Undertake a review of childcare provision in Wales to better consider the support required by young working parents.
- Pilot a series of innovative school holidays programme in the most deprived areas of Wales.
- Expand the Integrated Family Support Services programme to ensure families with lower level needs are able to access preventative support and advice.
- Extend funding for the Families First scheme by the end of the next Assembly.
- Incentivise credit unions to offer saving schemes and initiatives targeted at primary and secondary children.
- Provide greater support to young offenders to help them reintegrate in their communities.
- Review the All Wales School Liaison Core Programme and SchoolBeat.org initiatives and examine how this could be supported by peer-led approaches to tackling youth crime.
- Commission a national piece of research into the needs of young and young adult carers in Wales.