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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

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Youth work in Scotland worth over half a billion pounds

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Youth work chief warns that cutting spend will only cost more in the long run

Youth work in Scotland is worth £656 million to the Scottish economy, a new report has claimed.

With a current spend of approximately £90m on local authority and voluntary sector youth work, that gives a return of £7 for every £1 of public cash spent according to YouthLink Scotland.

The national agency for youth work commissioned Hall Aitken to carry out the study to show the economic value of youth work in Scotland.

The £656m figure relates to the estimated savings youth work provides to the education system, to the welfare state through more young people going into employment, to health and mental welfare services and on criminal justice interventions.

YouthLink Scotland chief executive Jim Sweeney hailed the research, saying it shows clearly how important it is to maintain funding levels.

Youth work in Scotland worth over half a billion pounds

Putting out the figures in money terms makes it easier for the government to see what they are getting

Jim Sweeney

Sweeney said it would be a false economy for funding to be cut from local authority youth work services and local voluntary organisations.

“Putting out the figures in money terms makes it easier for the government to see what they are getting,” he said.

“It’s equating it to the only thing that politicians understand which is pounds and pennies.

“The big message is if you fund youth work it will save you money in the long term but it will also make a massive difference in changing young people’s lives for the better.

"This new research reinforces what we as a sector have been seeing for years, that youth work has a significant effect on people’s lives for the better.

“We believe that universal youth work, available to all, provides the greatest opportunity in terms of preventative spending, as it can reduce the need for higher-cost targeted interventions later on in a young adult’s life.”

The statistics were announced by the organisation to coincide with a major youth work conference being held in Edinburgh today (Wednesday).

A YouGov poll also found that 450,000 adults in Scotland said youth work has been very important in helping them achieve their life goals.

The National Youth Work Conference and Expo is expected to bring together key business, public sector and education figures together for the first time to highlight and celebrate the contribution youth work makes to society.

Hosted by Angela Constance, cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning, speakers will include Paul Johnston, director general learning and justice for the Scottish Government; Tam Baillie, commissioner for children and young People; as well as testimonies from young people.

Constance said: “This is excellent research, which shows more clearly than ever the immense value of Scotland’s youth work sector to our economy. Every penny spent is well invested, as this research shows.

“Youth work builds the self-esteem and confidence of young people, provides space for personal development, and prepares young people for future opportunities. We are proud to invest in youth work programmes.

"Our Youth Work Strategy sets out our vision for working with all organisations to build on what is an already vibrant sector.”

Girlguiding Scotland’s chief commissioner Sue Walker welcomed the research.

She said: “YouthLink Scotland’s new research showing the huge contribution youth work makes to Scotland’s economy is a fantastic endorsement of the work we do with our 50,000 young members.

“We know from our own research that Scottish guiding unlocks opportunities and empowerment for our volunteers too – almost half our volunteers say it’s helped them get a job or work experience, and 99% tell us it’s had a positive effect on their lives.

“Support such as the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities scheme is vital in helping us reach more girls with the fun and adventure of guiding and get new units off the ground.”