Organisations have warned continued funding will be needed to help ensure recovery from Covid-19
Scotland's youth work sector has launched its manifesto to support youth workers and young people.
The sector is calling on all parties at local and national level to act now to protect and invest in vital youth work services to ensure young people do not suffer even further from the negative effects of the pandemic.
The launch comes as young people face a triple threat to their future life chances, with a rise in mental health issues, loss of learning widening the attainment gap, and severe economic uncertainty impacting on employment prospects.
Resilient, Resourceful and Reimagined, is a manifesto to secure crucial support for Scotland’s 80,000 youth workers and the 350,000 young people they work with. The sector asks politicians, local and national, to commit to three key policy asks:
A right for all young people to access youth work opportunities - Strengthening the statutory basis of youth work and support for voluntary youth work providers, is critical to young people realising their rights
Investment in youth work services at national and local level - We are asking all political parties to commit to increasing investment in the youth work sector at Scottish Government and local authority level.
Formal recognition of the positive impact of youth work across public policy areas - We ask all parties to ensure that there is formal recognition of the positive impact of youth work across public policy areas by embedding youth work’s contribution within the strategies and policies of Scottish Government and local authorities.
As the sector launches its manifesto, YouthLink Scotland, the national agency for youth work, has written to all council leaders as they set their budgets, warning that cuts to current youth work provision and a lack of investment could have serious long-term consequences for young people.
In a recent consultation with over 1,000 young people about the future of youth work, 96% think young people in Scotland should have the right to be supported by skilled, competent youth workers who take account of their wellbeing and 97% want to see more youth work opportunities available to all.
Unison’s report Youth Services at Breaking Point showed an £11,147,600 cut in local authority youth service spending in Scotland 2016-19. The report shows the continued trend of youth work cuts across Scotland’s local authorities.
YouthLink Scotland’s own member survey from summer 2019 also shows a looming funding crisis in the sector. 70% of youth workers who responded said their budgets had decreased in the last three years, with 50% saying they had experienced severe cuts to funding.
Reducing youth work budgets results in increased pressure on statutory services like social care, mental health services, social work, the NHS, the police, the criminal justice system and education.
Commenting on the launch of the sector manifesto, Tim Frew, CEO, YouthLink Scotland said: “Increasingly issues of poverty and inequality, limited employment prospects and lost learning will have a significant impact on our young people in the long-term, all affecting their mental health and wellbeing. Young people deserve a commitment to the continuation and enhancement of the services that supported them before and during the pandemic.
“I would expect politicians at a national party level to step up their support for our sector, investment is needed if we want to make sure young people are not further disadvantaged. That’s why I have also written to all 32 council leaders emphasising the precarious nature of the situation and the need for urgent action to secure youth work services.”
Denise Spence, chief executive of Girlguiding Scotland, said: “We have seen first-hand the impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on young people’s lives, especially their mental health and wellbeing. It’s therefore vital that youth work is made a priority and that we see a commitment from all political parties to fully invest in youth work to make it accessible to all of Scotland’s young people, and formally recognise the positive impact it has on young people’s lives.”
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Youth work services play a vital role in helping young people maintain good mental health, boost educational attainment, and gear up to enter the world of work – all priority issues for Barnardo’s and the young people we work with. The need for youth work services is all the more important and urgent as a result of the Covid pandemic whose negative effects will be with us for some time. We are proud to endorse the Youthlink Manifesto and we urge all politicians to commit to supporting the youth work sector and ensuring these essential services are maintained and enhanced in the years ahead.”
Katie Docherty, chief executive, Scouts Scotland said: “The skills and support that young people get from youth work are not only life changing but are essential for young people and society. Investing in today’s young people is more important now than ever before. Our leaders of tomorrow need to have a voice, share their passion for life, develop skills and become more resilient in a supportive community focussed society. This is why youth work services both statutory and voluntary are so crucial and provide young people with real opportunities for their future. I commend this manifesto.”
Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said: “Our experience of Covid-19’s impact over the past year has reinforced our belief in the vital role youth work plays in children and young people’s lives.
“As we move towards a Scotland free of the pandemic, youth work will be a necessary building block, supporting children and young people’s mental health and well-being and helping them to move into a more positive future.
“Youth work deserves sufficient funding and esteem from the next Scottish Government to enable it to play its part to the full. We need it more than ever.”
Kerry Reilly, CEO of YMCA Scotland, said: “Young people need the vital support of youth workers, especially in these uncertain and worrying times, but they also need to know that we will be there for them when we come out of lockdown. The youth work sector will be an essential partner as we seek to recover from the economic and societal fallout of Covid-19, and any prospect of further cuts to youth work funding would have a direct impact on young people and their mental health. It is crucial that our sector, key to that recovery, has the proper funding in place to support all of our young people.”
Craig Wilson, senior head of operations, The Prince’s Trust Scotland: “The positive impact that youth work has on young people and society has been proven time and time again. That’s why it’s important that Scotland has a strong, well-funded youth work sector that extends into all parts of the country. All the research shows that young people have been amongst the most negatively heavily effected by Covid-19, in education, employment and mental health, so it is vital that our next Scottish Parliament puts young people at the heart of its agenda.”
David Brackenridge, CEO, Venture Scotland added: “Venture Scotland believe it is absolutely critical for politicians of all parties to come together to support the young people of Scotland, by meeting the three key asks in the Manifesto For Scotland’s Young People and Youth Workers. Youth work repeatedly proven its value, both in financial terms and in terms of helping young people to develop the skills they need, to live happier and healthier lives. In this time of crisis, youth work has literally, never been so important to lead the recovery from the pandemic.”
Ross Martin, Chair of Scotland’s Local Authority Youth Work Managers said: “We need to make sure that we continue to make our young people a priority, and that means the services that support them and the funding and policy commitments that makes that happen. Funding for youth work is already on a knife edge so it is imperative that all politicians make youth work a priority area, so we can continue to provide vital services to young people who are dealing with the negative impacts of Covid-19 on their wellbeing and education.”