«Prepared by: Kamara Jeffrey United Way Project Staff: Diane Dyson Kathy Gallagher-Ross Michelle Smith Ming-Young Tam Peter Alexander United Way ...»
3. Narrow Mandate and / or Target Group As is noted in the literature, youth policies may be targeted towards specific sub-groups or developed for wider populations. The advantage of targeted programs is that they recognize the need for specific supports for particular groups. Unfortunately, a common challenge cited by several interviewed staff was the difficulty in addressing youth issues that fall outside of a given program mandate, particularly when issues are not linked to a broader policy framework.
For example, targeted policy initiatives often require individuals to meet certain age criteria before they can qualify for services. However, in instances where the targeted model does not consider the broader continuum of youth development, youth can experience service gaps and have no relevant programming after reaching the maximum target age (United Way of Greater Toronto, 2008). The mandates of some targeted policies are also often limited to one aspect of youth life such as employment, social recreation, or justice, and as a result they often do not recognize youth as a whole person. Below are examples of policy models with narrow mandates and limited target populations, which may limit their effectiveness for achieving broad outcomes.
4. Defining Youth In Different Ways When is a person a youth and no longer a child? When is a person an adult and no longer a youth? We found age criteria for youth ranging from 11 to 30 years. Policy makers and service providers acknowledge some people fall outside the age range but nonetheless experience similar circumstances and need similar supports. However, many youth who fall outside of the age range specified would not qualify for these social services. The lack of coherence in definitions for youth across departments, ministries and governments poses both a policy and service delivery challenge by making transition between services areas difficult for young people.
The current range of youth initiatives in Toronto is, at best, a patchwork among various levels of government, ministries, departments, communities, and stakeholders. Over the past 25 years, an overall reduction in universal, sustained, and predictable social services, coupled with the current trend toward shorter term project funding, has eroded the core capacities of many youth-serving organizations (Campaign 2000, 2006). Many gaps exist that vulnerable youth can fall through, especially youth facing multiple barriers. The sector is limited in its capacity to provide integrated services in order to effectively respond to youth needs. Research across the sector confirms that the ability of youth to access quality and coordinated services directly affects their potential for healthy outcomes.
Recent policy developments related to youth in other countries and provinces suggest that there is considerable interest in achieving positive outcomes for both society and youth through policy responses to youth-related issues. However, while there is progress being made though current investments and a wide range of services available in our youth sector, there exists no overarching vision unifying these initiatives. Through our review of jurisdictions, we have learned that there is much value in developing a broad outcomes-based vision for youth. A youth policy framework that is outcomes-based could help in building a coordinated system by facilitating coherent government action and guiding the strategies of all other partners who are involved with youth, ultimately increasing positive outcomes for youth.
Lessons from this inter-jurisdictional review show us that the support we give to young people can be maximized if we do not stop at the implementation of several isolated measures, but coordinate these initiatives across levels of government and at the community level. Young people s success in our society will depend on the government s ability to improve the breadth, coordination, and cohesion of services for youth. Young people s success will also depend on the ability of those concerned with youth outcomes and well-being to mobilize and advocate for a unified and comprehensive youth outcomes strategy.
Lessons Learned and Implications for Public Policy
We identified five key lessons from this inter-jurisdictional review of youth policy:
1. There exists no multi-level policy framework in Toronto or Ontario that adopts a comprehensive outcomes-based approach to youth development.
A comprehensive outcomes-based framework such as is established to guide public policies for children from the prenatal period to age six4 is absent for young people ages 12-25. The policy frameworks that do exist tend to involve only one level of government and focus on specific areas (such as employability for youth, justice, or health) or focus on particular target populations, such as young offenders or youth at risk.
Please refer to Appendix B For description of Ontario Best Start Plan for children ages 0-6
2. In general, policy responses to youth issues are increasingly being aimed at creating synergy among various policy sectors and departments. There has also been evidence of a shift away from paternalistic service provision models towards those that aim to develop partnerships between young people, decision-makers in the youth sector, and the community.
These trends have been consistent with scholarly research, which has pointed to the significance of multidisciplinary and holistic approaches for understanding the complexities of youth issues and transitions. These shifts also emphasize the importance of the recognition of, consultation with, and participation by young people in order to ensure that policies remain youth-relevant and youth-friendly. The youth policy agenda should continue to pay serious attention not only to the formulation of a comprehensive policy framework emphasizing holistic outcomes, but also to the quality of its engagement with youth and their communities.
3. A number of youth policies have narrow mandates and limited target populations.
This can act as a barrier that limits impact on the youth population as a whole.
Youth are not a homogeneous population and require appropriate and context-specific services.
But multiple targeted programs with varied mandates can contribute to fragmentation in the sector, especially if these are not integrated to support continuous services. In some cases, limited mandates result in funding and policy relationships that put programs in competition with one another (United Way of Greater Toronto, 2008). As well, many targeted programs are issuespecific but often not located within a broader continuum of youth development needs. Adopting an outcomes-based policy framework would acknowledge the need to direct specific resources toward groups of youth who face economic, social, racial, and language barriers to social integration while simultaneously establishing youth as a long-term funding priority.
4. There is no single theoretical approach to youth policy that is clearly more effective than another. However, stakeholders who employ differing approaches to helping youth can better collaborate when they are working toward the same overarching goals and long-term youth outcomes.
A lack of coherence in direction and long-term vision can impede partnerships involving stakeholders who utilize different approaches to helping youth. This suggests the need for a high-level overarching framework based on youth development outcomes in order to align all approaches.
5. Creating a common vision for youth is the first step in developing an effective policy framework. The real benefit of a vision comes from how it frames the development of policy goals regarding youth outcomes.
The process of getting to a common vision and the ongoing means for implementing good practices and monitoring are just as important (if not more so) than the content of the framework itself. Given that youth policy traverses several public policy areas - health, education, employment, crime, and housing - the crucial point is that policy developments for young people in these arenas must have a complementary, rather than a conflicting agenda. Jurisdictions that have adopted a clear outcomes-based vision have been better able to measure progress across common goals. In each of these cases, a collective vision and guiding principles have been used to develop and communicate a common understanding of the positive outcomes for youth that are to be achieved, with the expectation that all smaller policies, programs, and initiatives will adhere to the framework s defining principles.
Towards the Formulation of a Common Vision for Youth: Next Steps
United Way Toronto is committed to working with partners to support the development of a coordinated youth services sector that will place young people on the road to success. The formulation of a youth outcomes vision and framework will be a crucial first step in addressing the system fragmentation that hinders impact for youth.
In order to achieve this, the following steps can be taken:
1. Document Existing Fragmentation and Disseminate Information through the Sector A fundamental step in developing an appropriate policy response to fragmentation in the sector will be describing and documenting the extent of the gaps and disconnects and comparing them against possible outcomes. Having this evidence base will assist in delineating investment areas and funding structures that can be strengthened by policy development. Additionally, it can assist in developing consensus regarding what the sought outcomes are. Dissemination of the information will help to raise public awareness about the need for an overarching policy that unifies the hundreds of smaller youth initiatives in Toronto and other areas.
2. Convene appropriate stakeholders and build consensus around broad developmental, social, and economic outcomes for youth.
As this report indicates, a common outcomes-based strategy is the basis of a strong policy response and possibly the initial step in the youth policy framework formulation process. A policy model based on consensus could ensure that all stakeholders are on board and would continue to support broad objectives related to youth development in the long term. All six jurisdictions with formal outcome-based vision statements5 reinforced the need to engage in extensive formal consultation processes so as to engage youth, government and all other stakeholders in a meaningful consensus-building process. This means finding the appropriate mix of decisionmakers and youth representation. The ability of conveners to effectively manage input across the sector is crucial.6 Another key success factor cited by informants was the ability of conveners to engage stakeholders without an undue focus on drilling down to a level of detail that would act as a barrier to reaching consensus.
3. Focus advocacy activities on developing a Youth Outcomes Strategy at the highest political level.
In order to enact a common vision for youth that is comprehensive and effective, a collective and unified voice must reach all levels of government. Working across government departments is equally important in order to promote holistic policy and prevent the formation of silos.
Examination of other coordinated policy responses in the social service sector demonstrates the potential of all levels of government to negotiate federal, provincial, and municipal accords and agreements that establish shared goals, standards, and expectations.
In Canada, both the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement and the Early Childhood Agreement7 have demonstrated how outcomes-based policy frameworks can establish a Specifically, Australia, Quebec, Toronto, British Columbia, UK and Vancouver For example, in developing a strategy to place Early Childhood issues on the federal government agenda, the National Children s Alliance developed working groups to draft recommendations. These recommendations only moved forward once consensus was achieved.
Please refer to Appendix B for descriptions of the Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement and Early Childhood Agreement population group as a policy priority and result in a mandate to transfer resources to lower levels of government. Policy developments and agreements such as Best Start and the Early Childhood Development Agreement also demonstrate that population based supports for young people in Canada have primarily focused on the early years, and that adolescence remains a neglected policy area with few coordinated approaches across levels of government to implement systemic change. A key factor influencing the success of these agreements has been the generation of a unified call to action and seeking opportunities for increased government engagement and collaboration.
Toronto (City of Toronto) Toronto Youth Strategy Population-based strategy supporting several aspects of youth services in Toronto.
Targets youth age 12 24 for improved outcomes in the areas of:
o Education, employment and income o Families, communities and neighbourhoods o Engagement Youth were engaged in developing the strategy along with non-youth.
Sets priority actions and proposes a Youth Strategy Panel to facilitate the implementation of the strategy through a Youth Action Plan.
The Panel began its work in June 2007 and is expected to recommend an Action Plan to Council in early 2008. While the City of Toronto Youth Strategy makes reference to financial partnerships with provincial and federal governments, the key focus of its mandate is City of Toronto programs, resources, and services.
Vancouver (City of Vancouver)Civic Youth Strategy
A population-based strategy with a mandate to promote the development, assessment, and delivery of civic services with direct impact on youth (ages 13-24).
The strategy commits to:
1. Ensure that youth have a place in the city
2. Ensure a strong youth voice in local decision-making
3. Promote youth as a resource to the city