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The right start in life is crucial for the long-term development of a young person. It is for this reason that YMCA works with young people from birth through to adulthood – maintaining support for them both as individuals but also within a family unit. In our last manifesto we urged government to extend the number of hours of free childcare available to parents and were pleased to see this adopted. However, YMCA still believes that the 15 hours of free childcare should be extended to all two year olds and not just the most disadvantaged.

As one of the largest voluntary sector providers of childcare in the country YMCA knows the true cost of delivering an excellent service to children and families.We are, therefore, concerned that the full and true cost of providing free childcare to providers will not be met under the current arrangements.

Without a national strategy and realistic funding model we may see many providers unable to offer free places, denying young people the right start in life. Furthermore, there is little incentive in the system for organisations to invest the considerable sums necessary to develop additional capacity in the nursery sector. We believe that the next government should provide further incentives via the tax system to help organisations deliver these much needed additional facilities.

The provision and role of health visitors should also be at the centre of targeted support for all families in the UK. Health visitors are in a unique position to offer and coordinate practical family-centred support, but investment in recruitment, training and organisation is necessary. The next government should look at how this and other family support provision can be extended.

The development of a young person is not just confined to schools, parents and carers as there are many other influencing actors in their lives. The youth service is an example of one which often plays a positive role. However, over recent years this has diminished significantly as local authorities have had to operate under reduced budgets.

While a statutory youth service would be ideally placed to be a third pillar in supporting the development of young people it must be done within the context of the economic climate.

There is significant scope for areas of non-formal learning and pastoral care, which are often part of a youth service, to be delivered within and in conjunction with schools by qualified youth workers – supplementing the reduction in funding from local authorities to be driven back into positive activities for young people.

The negative effects of problem debt are significant, impacting on 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 next 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.

YMCA knows that children and young people who are at risk of offending come from a range of social backgrounds and cultures. Many of them have personal difficulties and individual circumstances that require a flexible response and a range of interventions.

The absence of a positive role model in a young person’s life increases the chance of them offending. YMCA believes that a mentor or youth worker can be that role model and provide the support a young person needs to reach their full potential.

Young carers, day in and day out, provide a lifeline and vital care for those closest around them. They do so during periods of their lives where they should be focussing on growing up, learning and developing themselves. The Children and Families Act 2014 placed a duty on local authorities to perform a needs assessment for young carers and their families. It is imperative that these are comprehensive and that the resulting recommendations are fully implemented to enable young carers to have the same opportunities as their peers.


  • Reclassify youth services as a statutory service, requiring each local authority to have in a place a youth services strategy
  • Introduce a framework to inspect the scope, quality and impact of a local youth service offer
  • Implement a national strategy on childcare to address the failure of the current system to meet parental requirements
  • Pass the full and true cost of providing free childcare to providers in order to create a fair and sustainable system for all
  • Extend the 15 hours of free childcare to all two-year-olds
  • Provide greater support to young offenders to help them reintegrate into their communities
  • Ensure all young carers get a full needs assessment and the support they need to have the same opportunity as their peers
  • Provide favourable VAT exemptions to organisations investing in new nursery facilities
  • Increase the number of health visitors operating across the UK
  • Incentivise credit unions to offer saving schemes and initiatives targeted at primary and secondary children