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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Greater collaboration needed to support youth organisations


A Force for Good was commissioned by YouthBorders

Greater collaboration and strategic investment is required to allow youth work in the voluntary sector to thrive in the long term, according to new research published this week.

A Force for Good was commissioned by YouthBorders - the network of voluntary and community-based youth work organisations in the Scottish Borders – and highlights the fragility of the sector including working conditions, and the need to develop training and qualification opportunities.

It found a quarter of staff interviewed perceived their job to be insecure, with 42% on temporary or fixed-term employment contracts.

Fifty eight percent of organisations taking part in the research said they had at least some staff on fixed term contracts, while the average hourly pay was £10.95 – below the Scottish Borders and national average hourly rate, leading to fears of in-work poverty.

And over 40% of the workforce were not aware of any opportunities for training and qualifications.

The research shows that despite this fragility third sector youth work organisations are making a meaningful contribution to the region, and their work is diverse, interesting, and impactful. YouthBorders is now calling on greater collaboration across sectors in the Scottish Borders to sustain an environment where young people’s skills, talents, aspirations can be nurtured and realised through youth work to be the benefit of both community and economic wealth of the region.

The network has also called on funding bodies and partners to engage with this research and consider strategic investment in the sector, ensuring its long-term future and the success of the region and its young people.

YouthBorders estimate there are 200 paid staff and 600 volunteers in third sector youth work, which is an informal educational process that engages with young people, and aims to deepen their understanding of themselves, their community and the world in which they live, so they can bring about positive changes.

The research also found:

  • The average number of employees in the third sector workforce sector is six. The majority of whom are part time or session staff.
  • 30% of the workforce is under 35 years old.
  • 17% of staff identified as having a disability or long-term health condition.
  • 71% of the workforce are female.
  • 33% of the paid workforce are paid hourly rather than salaried positions.
  • 59% of the workforce intend to remain in the sector over the longer term (5 or more years) 26% of the workforce were unsure how long they intend to remain in the youth work sector. 50% of the workforce had less than 5 years’ experience in the sector.
  • 42% of managers lacked confidence in their organisations ability to recruit youth work staff with the appropriate skills and experiences. 
  • Youth Work organisation cite barriers to workforce development are time capacity (84%); lack of budget (68%); available or suitable courses (63%).

Susan Hunter, chief officer of YouthBorders, said: “At YouthBorders, we want our sector to be connected, collaborative, respected and recognised.

“A Force for Good also gives us a mandate to work alongside our membership, stakeholders and young people to create sectoral change in a manner which supports sustainability, Fair Work, community wealth building and inclusive growth.

“YouthBorders invites our partners and stakeholders to engage in this research and discussion, and to seize the opportunity to add value to young people’s lives by doing things differently with youth organisations in the third sector.

“We can do this through incremental changes which will align our sector’s potential with the needs of young people and communities through improved connection, collaboration and resourcing.”

A Force for Good was funded by South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), the economic and community development agency for the region.

SOSE chief executive Jane Morrison-Ross said: “This is a hugely valuable piece of research and highlights the importance of youth work and the need to support our young people.

“At SOSE, we are determined to see the principles of Fair Work – fulfilment, security, effective voice, opportunity and respect – embedded across all sectors in the South of Scotland.

“We also recognise the importance of hearing from young people, as highlighted by their significant involvement in helping to shape the soon to be launched South of Scotland Regional Economic Strategy.

“By working with networks such as YouthBorders, and its members, I am positive we can achieve this, for the benefit of both youth workers and our young people.”

A Force for Good can be downloaded online.



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