The Best Place to Grow Up

We will set a new ambition for Greater Manchester: the best place in England to grow up. 

Sadly, we live in a country where postcode and accent still determine where people end up in life. Our driving mission will be to break that cycle.

We will set a new ambition for Greater Manchester: the best place in England to grow up. 

Sadly, we live in a country where postcode and accent still determine where people end up in life. Our driving mission will be to break that cycle.

In the course of this consultation, we have met many young people who live just a few miles from our city centre but rarely go there. In recent times, due to cuts in support for young people, their horizons have been receding and aspirations falling. It is harder for today's generation to get on in life.

If Greater Manchester is to succeed outside of the European Union, we must develop a plan now to invest in our best resource: our young people. We must instil a new sense of optimism in the generation that will build Greater Manchester in the 21st Century - and a loyalty to this place that encourages them to stay.

To make Greater Manchester attractive to overseas investors, and keep us ahead of the rest, we should aim to create in Greater Manchester the most highly-skilled, highly-motivated workforce in England.

To do this, Our Manifesto proposes new ways of supporting young people - responding to suggestions they have made during our consultation.

It starts with giving them a voice. 

Iqra from Rochdale and many others said we should establish a Youth Combined Authority on a permanent basis to feed into the Mayor and Combined Authority. 

So we will. 

 

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We will establish a gender-balanced Youth Combined Authority, representative of all the Boroughs of Greater Manchester and reflecting its full diversity, to meet at least twice a year with the Mayor.

The Youth Combined Authority will be tasked with building a wider network of any young person in Greater Manchester who wants to be involved and consulted on the work of the Mayor. 


 

Early years

To help young people fulfil their potential, you have to start early. That is the clear message that has come through so many of the consultation meetings we have held. When children arrive at school, they should be ready to learn and progress.

Sadly, that is far from the case across Greater Manchester. In some parts of the City-Region, less than 60 per cent of children have the basic social, language and mathematics skills they need by the time they arrive in reception class.

If we want to make Greater Manchester more equal in the future, we have to change these statistics and alter the course of these young lives.

We will ask all public bodies in Greater Manchester to sign a specific undertaking to collaborate to improve levels of "school-readiness". This will be a pre-eminent priority shared by all of Greater Manchester’s public services. 

The expert evidence is clear: the more progress we make towards this goal, the more equal and prosperous our society will become. Crucially, it will also lead to much better use of public money in the long run, saving billions on funding the costs of social failure.

Alongside this, we will review the provision of childcare across Greater Manchester with a view to ensuring that all parents can access affordable support. We will particularly encourage the development of voluntary or co-operative schemes to plug gaps in childcare provision.

Along with "school-readiness", we need to tackle some of the health inequalities that hold back children in Greater Manchester. A 5 year-old in Salford or Oldham is more than six times more likely to have tooth decay than in other parts of the country. Tooth decay can have a significant impact on children’s health, development and general confidence. 

In parts of Greater Manchester, innovative schemes have made a difference – such as the Healthy Living Dentistry programme in Wigan. We now need to spread that good work across the whole of Greater Manchester.

We will raise awareness of the importance of children’s oral health, promote new schemes in nurseries and schools and aim to reduce the number of child tooth extractions – which cost our NHS millions every year.


 

School years

On the strong foundations of investment in the early years, we must build much better systems of support for school-age children.

Despite the Government’s warm words about supporting the North, 99 per cent of our schools are facing real-terms funding cuts between now and 2020. This could lead to teacher redundancies and even larger class sizes.

For some schools in Greater Manchester, the situation could get even worse as a result of the Government’s new funding formula. Analysis of its impact suggests every single secondary school in Manchester, Rochdale, Trafford and Wigan will lose out. 

We will fight for a fair funding deal for Greater Manchester’s schools and strongly oppose any new funding formula that seeks to move money out of schools here.

At almost all our meetings, one theme has come up time and time again: children's mental health.

When life is getting tougher to navigate, and when young people are in need of better advice to make sense of it, education policy seems to be retreating in the opposite direction. Schools are becoming exam factories and careers' advice has been cut.

At a conference with around 100 young people at the UTC in MediaCity, when asked if they had received good sex and relationships education, only one hand was raised.

At many other events, there was a growing call from young people for a "Curriculum for Life". This could include: sex and relationships education; health advice; careers advice; budgeting and financial skills; counselling; political and citizenship education.

Last year, the Curriculum for Life was voted the top priority of the national Youth Parliament. But the Government has failed to act on it, which itself sends a poor message about how the voice of young people is ignored by national politics. 

Although devolution offers limited powers over schools policy, the Mayor will have an ability to bring people together and set a vision that is right for people here. 

To that end, we will work with schools to establish a Greater Manchester "Curriculum for Life". Our aim will be to develop a service that can provide independent, high-quality life advice for young people. 

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It would provide quality advice about opportunities at the end of school for all young people – not just those wanting to go to university. It would provide sex and relationships education on the simple principle that all relationships - including LGBT relationships - are equal. And it would help young people understand the changing world of work.

The advice could be delivered through a combination of online support, better access to independent counselling and direct school visits. The new Youth Combined Authority will be tasked with developing this service.

Alongside this, we need to look at changing the way the NHS prioritises mental health support for children.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) continues to be classed as a low priority. This attitude seems to reflect last-century thinking within the NHS which assumed mental health problems within children were rare.

The failure to ensure that the resources devoted to children's mental health has kept pace with need is having serious human consequences. Almost one in four children and young people referred to specialist mental health services are turned away.

Too many young people from Greater Manchester in crisis and in need of intensive support continue to be sent hundreds of miles from home. Anna from Manchester said that her daughter was told she would have to go to Middlesbrough for the care she needed. A mental health doctor who attended another of our consultation events said services for young people with eating disorders were inadequate in Greater Manchester. A high proportion of young offenders have undiagnosed or untreated mental health problems. 

In line with our ethos of early intervention, we will introduce a new general principle in Greater Manchester that no child here who needs mental health support will be turned away or forced to wait long periods to access the support they need. 

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We should aim to have adequate provision to meet all needs within the Greater Manchester area so that no child is forced to travel long distances from home.

A frequent complaint heard at our consultation meetings was that young people are often at a very vulnerable moment when they are expected to make a transition to adult mental health services.

The end point for children’s services in most areas is either 16 or 18. But, given the complexity of growing-up, an arbitrary age cut-off is not always appropriate. Some adult services are not geared up to cater adequately for autism, ADHD and other disorders which disproportionately affect young people.

Transition to adult services is often poorly managed, with access to services disrupted or young people slipping through the net completely. Many move to little or no support at all - just at the time when they need most help to move towards work or independence. These problems hit young people leaving care particularly hard.

Some young people suggested that they should have more flexibility over the point of transition. This would ensure continuity of care is not disrupted.

We will aim to give all young people in the care of CAMHS services across Greater Manchester the ability to set their own date of transition.

Councils have a duty of care to care leavers to ensure that their transition to adult life goes as smoothly as possible. However, a recent report by The Children’s Society suggested that young people leaving care are particularly vulnerable at this time, with many care leavers falling into debt as they begin to manage their own finances and move into independent accommodation.

These problems are set to be compounded by the Government's decision to remove eligibility for Housing Benefit from people aged 18 to 21.

Rochdale Council has recently agreed to free young people leaving care from liability for council tax until they are 21. We will work with our councils to see if this policy can be made standard across Greater Manchester.


 

Teenage years

Looking to the future, there is much more we can and should be doing to give all young people in Greater Manchester hope of a positive future at the end of school.

At present, education policy is heavily skewed towards the university route. For some young people, this works well: it gives them clarity about what is required from them at every stage of the education journey. But, for those who want technical qualifications, things are far less clear.

We heard at the Our Manifesto events how teachers, through no fault of their own, often struggle to provide good advice about technical options. The result is that too many young people struggle to see where secondary school is taking them and have no clear sense of purpose.

This has got to change.

Our mission here in Greater Manchester will be to raise the aspirations of all our young people, by giving them a good opportunity to aim for at the end of school and support with their travel costs to take it up.

Working with our schools and colleges, we will remodel 14-19 education and training to give all young people a choice of three clear routes: university; apprenticeship; or business.

Working with Greater Manchester schools, colleges and businesses, we will deliver a revolution in technical education. Central to this will be the development of a ground-breaking UCAS-style application system for all apprenticeships in Greater Manchester. 

The simple idea behind this proposal is that young people will be able to access information about apprenticeships, and apply for them, in the same way that people apply for university courses. Young people will be able to see all of the opportunities open to them across the whole of Greater Manchester and the subjects and grades they need to get them. Employers will have more ability to steer the education system and be matched with willing employees.

At the Our Manifesto event in Oldham, Ellie spoke about the experience of her apprenticeship and how the mix between learning and work-based learning was right for her. But we heard from others that apprenticeships were of poor quality or stopped before completion.

A UCAS-style system would address this and drive up both the quantity and quality of apprenticeships. It could include a new ‘Mayor's Mark' that apprenticeship providers have to meet in terms of quality and support with travel costs.

It would also reveal the gaps in key sectors such as digital where Greater Manchester aims to be strong in the future and encourage action to be taken to address them. 

This new approach could have a transformative effect on technical education across Greater Manchester and open up new horizons currently closed off. Alongside apprenticeships, it should be developed to include all internships, work shadowing and work experience in Greater Manchester so that they can be applied for on an open and fair basis. 

But this is not enough. The reality of 21st Century life is that many more people will run their own businesses. At present, we are not preparing young people for that possibility. Perhaps due to our industrial past, it remains the expectation of many people in Greater Manchester to spend our working lives as employees but not employers. We need to change this culture and give young people here the clear expectation of a third potential route at the end of school - starting a business.

We will work with businesses and colleges to develop a new supported route for young people who wish to explore this possibility. Alongside that, we will consider a new capital challenge scheme to build new business start-up units, including in the grounds of schools.

The aim of this scheme would be to provide free start-up space for a year to former students to get a new business off the ground. It would also help change the culture within our schools and send the clear message to our young people that launching a business is a real possibility.

Better opportunities at the end of school will not on their own raise aspirations. Young people have got to be given confidence that they can afford to access them.

At our consultation events, young people repeatedly raised the high cost of public transport in Greater Manchester as a barrier to getting on. It has to be removed if we are to build a strong and prosperous society.

So, as a first step, we will introduce half-price travel for 16-18 year olds on public transport, starting with buses and extending to Metrolink as soon as possible.

This will build on the current concessionary scheme for under-16s and allow young people to travel all over our City-Region at a discounted rate, opening up new opportunities and expanding their horizons. We will fund this new concession by working with schools, colleges, and bus operators and simplify the confusing and piecemeal ticket options for young people.

In the longer-term, the Mayor will be given new powers to improve bus services and make them work in the public, not private, interest. These powers will give the Mayor more control over fares, routes, frequency of services and ticketing.

As these powers become available, we will use them to give all 16-18 year olds in Greater Manchester a free bus pass.

Whether it is for education, work or leisure, if we give young people more support and more freedom to travel round our City-Region, we will help them get on in life and help them realise their full potential. We will also reduce the costs of social failure and bring down the benefits bill. We will monitor the effect on benefits spending on under-25s in Greater Manchester of the introduction of free bus travel. If it falls, as we expect it to, we will seek an agreement with the Government that at least half of these savings are returned to Greater Manchester.

It was suggested by many people - including young people - that the introduction of the pass should be used to promote good citizenship. So, rather than a simple hand-out, the pass should be developed as part of a new contract with young people, building on the success of the Zip Oyster photocard in London.

For instance, if someone failed to turn up at college or their place of work, or was in trouble with the police, they could stand to see their pass suspended or even withdrawn altogether. 

More positively, some young people encouraged it to be developed it as an "Opportunity Pass", linking to offers of free tickets to cultural or sporting events. Nakash from Glodwick suggested that it might work as a loyalty scheme. For instance, if young people carried out volunteering work, they could earn points which could be used to subsidise the cost of other travel or services provided by commercial sponsors of the scheme. 

This "Opportunity Pass" idea could be introduced as part of a new smart ticketing or Oyster-type scheme for the whole of Greater Manchester. It would give Greater Manchester a world-leading support system for young people that encourages good citizenship. 

We will task the Youth Combined Authority with scoping the development of an “Opportunity Pass” across Greater Manchester. 

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Another barrier preventing many young people from fulfilling their potential is the lack of a trusted adult in their life. There are many older people who might be encouraged to volunteer to provide that role. To make sure no young person is left behind, we will work with schools, colleges, universities and voluntary organisations to support new mentoring programmes across Greater Manchester.

If Greater Manchester is to succeed outside the European Union, we need to have more control over workforce planning in our health service so that we can do more to encourage young people to enter training, and more to incentivise staff to stay here after they qualify.

In recent years, our health service has become increasingly reliant on recruitment from overseas and on hiring expensive agency staff, partly as a result of Government cuts to nursing training places. At a time when our health and care services need every penny possible, this approach is unsustainable.

As nurse training has increasingly become university delivered, the dream of working in the NHS has died for many young people in Greater Manchester who are worried about the fees. We will change that and grow more of our own nurses, midwives, physios and occupational therapists.

We will work with NHS Trusts, universities and colleges across Greater Manchester to develop new pathways into Greater Manchester's NHS for our young people and develop new incentives for them to commit to it.

We will look at retaining an NHS Bursary and introducing a new system of support for anyone who graduates from a Greater Manchester university in a clinical course, whereby help with student loan repayments will be given in every year that they commit to working in Greater Manchester's NHS.


 

Looking to the future, our goal will be to have much greater control over all policy affecting young people up to age 19.

If we are truly to reshape the way we support young people, then we need to be able to develop a coherent and complementary set of policies covering all aspects of early development and optimising the use of public funding. 

We will begin negotiations with the Government for a long-term Greater Manchester Schools Challenge with funding to match the London Challenge, devolved responsibility for school improvement and a curriculum which reflects the distinct needs of Greater Manchester. 

We will call for the introduction of a Greater Manchester Schools Commissioner to work to drive up standards across the whole of the City-Region.

We will support collaboration, not competition, between schools, colleges and training providers and establish an Education Commission to develop these proposals.