Sarah Paterson calls on all youth workers to get involved in the #InvestInYouthWork campaign
When we look at what kind of society we should be, delivering what our young people need to flourish is just fundamental. I think the words of Kailash Satyarthi, Indian Child Rights Activist, strike a particularly poignant chord as we look back at Year of Young People, and the amazing platform that it gave our nation’s youth.
“The power of youth is the common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of the young people.”
It is a fundamental truth. They are our present. Without the nurture, love and opportunity now, will some of our young people be part of a positive future? That depends on how much value we place on providing the necessary services to allow all young people to grow, flourish, and ultimately realise their full potential as adults.
So here are some fundamental questions we need to ask our politicians and ourselves:
➡ Do we as a society in Scotland have the necessary services and provision to meet the needs of all our young people?
➡Can we secure a meaningful legacy from Year of Young People?
➡ Can we meet the requirements of full incorporation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Child?
The only answer we have to these questions is, not without proper investment in youth work at local level and a commitment from all political parties not to make any further cuts to youth work budgets across the country.
But why youth work? What is the intrinsic value to society and our young people? For us, it is an essential part of a young person’s educational journey and a right. However, if we are talking in terms of balancing council budgets, here is another fundamental truth, cutting youth work services costs money, it does not save money.
Investment into youth work is preventative spend and can result in public savings in numerous areas. Research into the social value of youth work in Scotland is estimated at a return of £7 for every £1 of public cash and the total value of youth work in Scotland is at least £656 million (Hall, 2016).
It is clear that youth work adds huge value to Scottish society and investment in youth work provided through local councils should be protected and built on. That is why, working with our members and the wider youth work sector, we have launched a ‘state of the sector’ survey to gather a picture of the reductions to services, budgets and staffing across the country.
The power of young people is indeed the common wealth of our nation, so over the coming months, we will work alongside our members and others to ensure the rights and opportunities of our young people are not eroded through budget cuts.
Sarah Paterson is public affairs manager for YouthLink Scotland