Youth Work Sector Warns Of Crisis Point For Scotland’s Young People If Parties Fail To Invest In Critical Youth Work Services

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 £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.”

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.”

More information on Youthlink Scotland’s website and you can read the full manifesto document here: Resilient, Resourceful and Reimagined.