Lucy Frazer's speech at the Onward Think Tank

Culture Secretary presents her vision for the youth sector, outlining her ambition that every young person should have someone to talk to, something to do and somewhere to go

The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP

Thank you Onward for hosting today’s event

It’s an event dedicated to young people.

I’d like to start by thanking those organisations in the room that spend their time supporting young people.

Groups like The National Youth Agency and UK Youth, working with colleagues right across the sector to support the youth workforce.

The National Citizen Service Trust, our DCMS Youth ALB.

The Back Youth Alliance putting young people’s voices at the heart of their vision.

The Youth Endowment Fund, the Youth Futures Foundation and the George Williams College, helping shape an evidence-based approach to working with young people.

What I want to focus on today is why it is so important that we invest in maximising the potential of young people across the country.

And I wanted to start with a story.

It’s a story about maximising that potential.

A story about a remarkable woman.

Called Yetta Frazer.

Who was my grandmother.

She had the most enormous amount of self belief, determination and focus.

And became the first female barrister in Leicester.

She would remind me, every time I saw her of a quote from Robert Browning.

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for”.

This was translated as.

Life is full of opportunities.

Think big,

Be ambitious,

Believe in yourself.

I was lucky to have her.

Because she instilled those values in me.

They are essential core conservative values.

Everybody has potential.

Everybody can fulfil it.

They may need a step on the way. And if they need it, or want it, we will give it to them.

They may not, and if they don’t, and can do it on their own, we won’t stand in the way of. success or tell them what they should be doing or how they should be doing it.

We will support all young people to maximise their potential.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about.

The potential of everyone across our country.

And how we help them fulfil it.

And I want to start with what we have already done.

Because we have invested heavily in supporting young people across government.

And we have done it in a conservative way.

That is, thoughtful consideration of how and where money ought to be spent.

Based on evidence about what makes the most difference.

So there is DfE funding for education. The highest on record.

Including free school meals and the holiday activity and food programme.

Home Office funding for the youth endowment fund on programmes which prevent children being exploited and getting involved in serious violence.

MoJ funding on youth justice, to support every council to catch and prevent youth offending earlier than ever.

DWP funding for the kickstart scheme which provided a vital leg up in the world of work for young people who needed it,

as well as their boosted Youth Hubs and Youth Employability coaches who help address barriers to employment.

DHSC help, including mental health support teams in schools and increasing access to community health services.

DLUHC funding local authorities to level up opportunities and preventing significant risks for young people such as youth homelessness.

And here in DCMS, we have been leading from the front, with the National Youth Guarantee.

A landmark programme backed by over half a billion in funding, to broaden the horizons of young people right across the country.

And we are already seeing results.

Over £100 million of the Youth Investment Fund has gone out of the door, giving thousands more young people access to opportunities in their community.

Supporting young people is not the job of one department.

It is the job of every government department.

And today I want to focus on what we are doing in DCMS and what more we can do.

Because I want to ensure that every young person has more opportunities than their parents.

And I’m going to explain it in three short ways, which I think will be familiar to all of you.

Everywhere in the country people should have

Someone to talk to,

Something to do,

Somewhere to go.

Turning first to “someone to talk to”.

As I said, I was lucky.

I had supportive parents and a trailblazing role model of a grandmother.

And I know millions of people across the country are just as lucky as me.

Others find supportive individuals on their journey.

Some people find teachers.

My grandfather was a headmaster and I remember a few years after I had been elected as an MP, I received an email out of the blue from one of his former pupils,

This former pupil, now an adult, wrote to me and said:

“Your grandfather was one of the most inspirational people in my entire life”.

” Although he was a scientist, he recognised in me a youthful artist and did everything he could to set me on the path and with the aims that have shaped my career.

” He had a huge part in shaping who I have become.

” My career has been as a costume designer in film and theatre.

” Dr Hyman Frazer joins Harold Pinter, Ridley Scott, and Franco Zeffirelli in having had a major influence in my development as an artist and a person.

” But in fact your grandfather was the first of those influencers”

So some people find some support themselves outside of the family.

But some people have no-one.

And that’s why we need mentors and role models.

They could be youth workers,

Guide leaders, sports team coaches, music teachers.

They could be trusted adults found in youth centres.

I know some of you are directly training and providing mentors.

At DCMS, we too are already providing some funding individually - through our bursaries for youth workers, with our Million Hours Fund.

Through NCS we are supporting the One Million Mentors scheme and working with the Youth Endowment Fund, providing mentors to help young people in Leicester at risk of exclusion to stay in school.

I want every young person to have a rock of some kind, someone they can turn to, if they don’t already have that.

And we will set out in due course how we can grow the work we are doing to achieve that.

Second, turning to “Something to do.”

Young people need something to belong to.

Something constructive on which to spend their time and feel part of.

That is why we have delivered improvements to over 3,300 grassroots football facilities up and down the UK, and a third of our target of 3,000 renovated tennis courts.

Earlier this month, we announced school holiday activities in antisocial behaviour hotspot areas, with more to come.

We’ve also announced a number of initiatives to support young people on their career paths, like our Discover Creative Careers programme.

Through the National Youth Guarantee, we have created multiple opportunities for young people to join scouts, guides, and take part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.

Thousands of young people have signed up to the new NCS programme which provides more activities which give young people real skills, teach them resilience and build their confidence.

We will continue to build on the National Youth Guarantee and explore other opportunities for young people, with more ways to build their confidence, resilience, employment and life skills.

And finally “somewhere to go”.

We have already announced the first 43 organisations across the country to receive Youth Investment Fund grants,

which we will be continuing to roll out to level up areas and increase the number of young people accessing those spaces.

We also want to look further at which places are ones we can develop to support young people which may include looking at the use of our schools and community buildings more broadly.

Our policies are and will be evidence-based.

As everyone in this room, who works so hard in such an important sector, knows that these types of support that change lives.

Put those on the wrong path, onto the right one.

And for others unlock opportunities to enrich the lives of every young person.

Turning to the evidence, I have no doubt that you all know. that mentoring can have a significant impact on the development, of social emotional skills, reduces the risk of entering into the justice system and adds months of academic progress.

In fact, the Youth Endowment Foundation estimates that mentoring can reduce youth violence by 21%.

And the value of sport, uniform groups and youth employment is more than just doing the activity.

It is the sense of belonging and the new social network that is gained.

The evidence shows that these pro-social connections and feelings of belonging are key to social mobility.

Robert Putnam summarises the evidence like this:

‘The influence of peers …has been shown on teens’ academic achievement, educational aspirations, college going, misbehaviour, drug use, truancy, and depression … High standards and aspirations tend to be contagious – as do low standards and aspirations.’

Raj Chetty’s landmark study on social mobility found that social connection with those of different income and race, and membership of clubs and societies were 2 of the top 5 drivers of social mobility.

We want to create positive experiences for young people, and something they can belong to, a sports team, a youth group, a summer programme.

That’s why all the work you of you are doing is so vital to our young people’s future.

And we will continue to develop policy to expand these young people’s horizons in this way.

Someone to talk to, something to do, somewhere to go.

These should not just be the preserve of the kids of pushy parents or tiger moms, but available to every young person everywhere.

I’d like to end with a thought. It’s a positive thought.

Often it is said we don’t understand people if we haven’t had their experience.

You can’t help someone in poverty or without work, someone who has been in the justice system, unless you too know what that feels like.

But if that means that those who have had a positive experience cannot bring that to the table to improve the lives of others.

I profoundly disagree.

To know what it is like to be supported.

To have experienced that sense of belonging.

To have learnt from the values of those you trust, and seen first hand the importance of passing those to others.

To truly understand these positives can be powerful and valuable.

We should believe in all young people, and want for them, at least what we have had for ourselves.

If we don’t believe in young people and what they can achieve. Nor will they.

I believe in levelling up. Not levelling down.

And believe that we can give our young people a better life and more opportunities than we had ourselves.

I believe we can achieve this together.

As Yetta would have said otherwise ‘what’s a heaven for’.

That’s what today is about.

Supporting young people is not just the preserve of Government, we all have a role to play.

That includes the youth sector, local authorities, schools, parents, and the private sector.

So I want to hear from all of you, and I want us to work together to deliver even more for young people in the coming months.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP