Children’s Commissioner
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The Big Ambition for Youth Work 24 April 2024

Childhood is precious. Every child deserves the opportunity for play and leisure time, alongside a great education – the two things are key to developing the skills to succeed in adult life.  

As Children’s Commissioner, children tell me all the time about the importance of play and activities, especially access to safe outdoor spaces. Children use spaces in different ways to adults and have different priorities.  

They will have common shortcuts from school to town centres; they will have found the perfect place to play ball games, where they are actively discouraged from playing; they will know places that feel scary or unsafe to them, that police aren’t aware of.  

And yet children have told me too often that they don’t feel they are consulted when decisions are made about these spaces that they use: where new cameras or lighting are installed, or when new parks and recreation spaces are developed.  

It is positive news that most children told The Big Ambition there are fun activities in their local area, but this is far from unanimous.  

In focus groups, children discussed the need for more spaces for children to go where they can enjoy themselves, and feel safe. They wanted clean places to play, to pursue their interests, or simply to spend time with their friends. Some children also expressed that they felt access to more fun activities and youth work would also bring down children’s level of involvement with crime. Responses to The Big Ambition reflected this:  

“Provide more opportunities to take part in locally run sports and activities which are free and safe to attend. Provide more teenager run centres or youth clubs so you can socialise and meet different people instead of just being online.” – Girl, 15 

“Build parks near children that don’t have parks near them.” – Boy, 7. 

‘‘They need to listen to the children more and ask us what we would like done in our area”– Boy, 14 

Youth work is a key lever to creating these kinds of safe communities for children. It is of such importance to so many children, who want fun activities, opportunities to learn and develop, and trusted relationships outside of school. The challenge for us is how we meet this need and provide these opportunities.  

That’s why I have set out five overarching outcomes I want for every child in The Big Ambition, namely that they are safe, healthy, happy, learning and engaging in their community.  

To achieve that within support for youth work will mean achieving the following ambitions:  

  • Every child has access to play and fun things to do, and places to spend time with their friends.  
  • Every child has access to high-quality youth provision in their local area.  
  • Every child is supported by services that work together with youth work, to prevent issues escalating 

You can read all my recommendations for how we can achieve each of these ambitions in The Big Ambition report.  

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