Children & Young People Now report the end of the Department for Education’s policy responsibility for youth policy. This is a move that has been coming down the pipeline for some time, but I’m not sure that it’s as welcome as some other parts of the sector are saying in their comments to CYPN.
From our perspective it means that the vital policy link between a variety of risky behaviours, including substance misuse, is now no longer held in a single team but is spread across departments and will now be hindered (when it comes to substance misuse) by focusing on drugs, alcohol and tobacco in isolation.
Only last year the National Audit Office was praising the drug strategy as an example of joined up working across departments, saying:
Several joint strategies relate to early action. For example, the Home Office leads on the overall Drugs Strategy, and within this the Department of Health and the Department for Education lead jointly on reducing demand, including preventative measures.
Well that’s less true today than it was then.
The information we have is that the Home Office will now lead on the work the DfE would have previously done on young people and substance misuse. Although even that isn’t entirely sure as there is likely to be a substantial role for Public Health England and the Department of Health may still have some sway. Meanwhile it is clear that other parts of youth policy – positive activities, youth voice etc. – are now to be addressed to the Cabinet Office.
The areas the DfE are reserving to itself are any education aspects, so things like behaviour and attendance, safeguarding and alternative provision will continue to be a DfE policy responsibility. The DfE will also continue to have responsibility for drug and alcohol education issues – though if the PSHE review is anything to go by we shouldn’t expect too much from that quarter at the moment.