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LAST MODIFIED ON: 7/08/2020
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Existence of a National Youth Law
There is no comprehensive youth law. However, there are a number of pieces of legislation which address the needs and rights of young people and regulate how youth issues are addressed. Relevant legislation includes:
- Learning and Skills Act 2000 (Act of Parliament).
- Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 (Measure of the National Assembly for Wales)
- Equality Act 2010 (Act of Parliament)
- Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 (Measure of the National Assembly for Wales)
- Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Act of the National Assembly for Wales)
- Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (Act of the National Assembly for Wales)
There was no systematic consultation of young people in the drawing up of this legislation. However, young people would be able to contribute to any public consultation which generally precedes new legislation, see the chapter on 'Participation' for further details.
Scope and contents
Under section 123 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, the National Assembly for Wales directs local authorities to provide or secure the provision of, or participate in the provision of, youth support services. According to the Welsh Assembly, youth support services are services which encourage, enable or assist young persons (directly or indirectly) to:
- participate effectively in education and training
- take advantage of opportunities for employment
- participate effectively and responsibly in the life of their communities.
The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 requires local authorities to make arrangements to promote and facilitate participation by children in the authority decisions which affect them. This is one of the core principles of youth work and an enabler to the other rights of the UNCRC. Statutory guidance on this duty has been issued to local authorities (annexed to the Shared Purpose, Shared Future (SPSF) 2 Guidance on the individual role public bodies have). In most cases it is discharged by an LA's youth service.
The Equality Act 2010 provides a legislative framework to: protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all; to update, simplify and strengthen the previous legislation; and to deliver a simple, modern and accessible framework of discrimination law, which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
Under the Act, the following are ‘protected characteristics’, or the categories to which the law applies: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. It applies to the local authorities, private companies and voluntary and community sector organisations (including charities and religion or belief organisations, collectively referred to in Wales as the Third Sector) as services providers and employers.
In the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011, the Welsh Government incorporated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as the basis for policy making about children and young people in Wales; the associated Children's Rights Scheme sets out the arrangements Welsh Government Ministers have in place to ensure that they comply with this duty. In the 2015 Programme for Children and Young People, the Welsh Government summarised the Convention into seven core aims which state that children and young people should:
- have a flying start in life
- have a comprehensive range of educational and learning opportunities
- enjoy the best possible health free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation
- have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities
- be listened to, treated with respect and have their race and cultural identity recognised
- enjoy the benefit of a safe home and a community that supports physical and emotional well-being
- not to be disadvantaged by poverty.
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 provides a new legal framework which brings together and modernises social services law. The Act, which came into force from April 2016, imposes duties on local authorities, health boards and Welsh Government Ministers requiring them to promote the well-being of those who need care and support, and of carers who need support. Youth work contributes to this by working with young people to reduce the likelihood of them needing the support of social services, supporting those who are already in the care of social services, and through collaboration with the local safeguarding board (these are regional boards which coordinate, and ensure the effectiveness of, measures to protect and promote the welfare of all children and young people).
The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of a sustainable Wales. Youth work can contribute to the seven goals of the Act, which are as follows: a prosperous Wales; a resilient Wales; a healthier Wales; a more equal Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language; and a globally responsible Wales.
There is also legislation relating to safeguarding and child protection. Prior to April 2016, the Welsh child protection system was similar to England's system. However, since the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014 came into force, Wales has had its own framework for social services. The guiding principles of the Act include giving individuals a stronger voice and more control over the care and support they receive and a reviewed focus on prevention and early intervention.
At a local level, regional safeguarding children boards co-ordinate, and ensure the effectiveness of, work to protect and promote the welfare of children. Each regional board includes representatives from: the local authority; chief officer of police; Local Health Board; NHS trust; and provider of probation services. The regional boards are responsible for local child protection policy, procedure and guidance. Under the Act, a child is a person who is under 18 years of age.
There is no single piece of legislation covering youth policy. It is therefore not possible to describe when, how and why it has been updated. When newer legislation updates or revokes existing legislation, details are provided on the UK legislation website.