Youth work funding “on a knife edge”

Yw leaders, young people, tom kitchin 2

A new campaign has called for investment in youth work services to be returned to pre-austerity levels

5th November 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A call has been made for significant investment to be made to support youth work in Scotland.

The #InvestInYouthWork campaign has called for investment in youth work services to be returned to pre-austerity levels and for a strengthening of the statutory basis for youth work services.

As part of the launch, YouthLink Scotland, the national agency for youth work, has revealed the scale of the cuts.

According to Unison’s recent report Youth Services at Breaking Point, youth service spending in Scotland has been cut by over £11 million in the last three years alone.

This report shows the continued trend of youth work cuts across Scotland’s local authorities. In Unison’s 2016 Scotland’s Damage report, 83% of youth workers who responded to this survey said they had experienced cuts to budgets since 2010.

YouthLink Scotland’s own member survey 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.

Also, during this period 68% of youth workers said there had been cuts to staffing, impacting frontline services. 

Tim Frew, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, said cuts are hitting home.  

He said: “The positive impact of youth work is beyond doubt. However, it’s clear from the figures that the funding being allocated to youth work is being reduced each year at local level. This is having a detrimental impact on many young people who are not able to access services they need. It also has a knock-on impact on the voluntary sector provision of youth work.

“This is a real tipping point for youth work in Scotland. We are calling on politicians of all parties to work with the sector to restore youth work budgets and strengthen the statutory basis for providing youth work services.”

Celebrity chef Tom Kitchin, who works with Citadel Youth Centre to offer training opportunities in his restaurant, supported the launch of the campaign.

He said: “My message to national and local politicians is, without youth work all over Scotland, the consequences are disastrous. Youth work offers safe spaces for young people, and helps them to go on and achieve great things in life. Some of the projects I have done with Citadel have been so rewarding, I’ve seen the incredible journey some young people take. It’s massively important to invest in youth work.”

Ian McLaughlan, chief executive of Youth Scotland, said: "This is a time when we need local youth work more than ever. The pressures and expectations on community-based youth work have grown throughout austerity. All of this life-changing work has value; now is the time to recognise that value. Now is the time to #InvestInYouthWork.”

Research shows that investing in youth work leads to a significant reduction in mental health issues, youth offending and substance abuse, while it also increases educational attainment and leads to increased earnings later in life. This amounts to a significant contribution of at least £656 million every year to the Scottish economy, representing a return of £7 for every £1 invested in youth work.