Youth work leaders have said they need support from politicians of all parties, having already seen funds drop by £20m as a result of Covid-19
Youth work leaders have issued a stark warning to national politicians and local councils as a new report shows an immediate funding loss this year of £20 million to the sector.
The study also predicts further losses of tens of millions post lockdown.
The warning comes at a time when youth organisations are bracing themselves for an impending youth mental health crisis as a result of months of isolation for Scotland’s young people.
In a financial survey of all Scotland’s national youth work organisations, which does not include local authorities, the current income loss due to Covid-19 is estimated at just over £20 million.
Although the sector has welcomed the £350 million made available to councils and the third sector to deal with the emergency response, a majority of national youth work organisations have been unable to access these funds and now face an uncertain future.
National voluntary youth work organisations include: Scouts Scotland; Prince’s Trust; Girlguiding Scotland; LGBT Youth Scotland and YMCA Scotland, among others.
The sector is warning all political parties to ensure significant investment into the youth work sector to support young people as society tackles this unprecedented crisis. Further cuts, sector leaders say, would put Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19 in jeopardy.
Tim Frew, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, said: “The detrimental effects of this pandemic on young people come at a time when budgets for youth work services have already been reducing overall every year.
“Unison’s recent report Youth Services at Breaking Point showed council spending in Scotland on youth work has been cut by over £11 million in the last three years alone. YouthLink Scotland’s own member survey from June 2019 also showed a continuing funding crisis with 70% of youth workers said budgets had decreased in the last three years, and 50% said they had experienced severe cuts to funding.
“We are asking politicians and society to stand with us during this unprecedented period in our nation’s history, to support the youth work sector, many of whom are on the frontline, delivering food and caring for some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
The study found 70% of those questioned believe there will be significant further cuts to youth work services and budgets post Covid-19, and one in two youth work leaders believe there will be detrimental impact on young people’s mental health because of lockdown creating a youth mental health epidemic.
Kerry Reilly, chief executive 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.”
The sector is calling on politicians to ensure continuity of youth work services by preventing, support youth workers to have access to the relevant digital platforms to engage with all young people and invest in youth mental health services to prevent a crisis.
Sarah Quinn MSYP, a trustee of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said: "In these unprecedented and rapidly changing times, young people need investment in youth work to ensure their life opportunities are not at risk. Youth work is essential to enable organisations like the Scottish Youth Parliament to develop young people's skills and self-confidence. Post-Covid-19, youth work becomes even more important to battle the worsened mental health epidemic young people are facing.
“Scotland’s young people want decision-makers to allocate more funding and opportunities to access youth work. This should be taken into consideration when developing youth work budgets post-Covid-19."
Scotland’s youth work sector works with around 350,000 young people and has a paid and volunteer workforce of 80,000.