With up to 1 in 4 youth centres under the threat of closure, and emergency funding for youth services coming to an end, failure to act now will decimate the youth sector leaving a generation of young people without opportunities to thrive.
A joint report out today from the National Youth Agency (NYA ) and YMCA, Time’s Running Out, makes clear a national strategy is needed to secure youth services over the long term.
Youth services have a wide and popular appeal, engaging with any young people regardless of their socio-economic status or where they live.
The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the need for quality youth work and services for
young people, with youth work classed as an essential service.
A government review and consultation with young people and the youth sector has highlighted the need for regular weekly activities for all young people, alongside volunteering opportunities, adventure and residential trips, and international exchanges.
Recognised as a distinct form of education youth work provides skills for life and work, and mental and physical wellbeing says the report.
Yet youth services have been cut by 73% since 2010. Annual spending has dropped by almost £1 billion. 4,500 qualified youth workers have been lost from the frontline. Where voluntary and community groups have sought to fill the void there is a crisis in volunteer recruitment made worse by the pandemic, with a shortfall of at least 40,000 adult volunteers.
Recruitment of qualified youth workers has seen a dramatic decline, with less than 300 a year for a system that is geared for an annual in-take of up to 2,000 undergraduates. The lack of work placements and dwindling base of community provision is a block to the critical pipeline required for 20,000 entry-level youth workers and trained volunteers.
Worse may yet come, with existing youth work jobs and services under threat. The
government’s spending review and grant settlement for local authorities will be critical to
protect and youth services, or risk a further round of cuts from which many youth services won’t recover and with lost opportunities for a generation of young people
Leigh Middleton, NYA Chief Executive commented,
“Young people must be made a priority for Covid-recovery. 4,500 qualified youth workers have been lost from the frontline, and there is a shortfall of at least 40,000 adult volunteers leaving the youth sector in a dire situation. Bold investment is required, including the immediate release of the £500 million Youth Investment Fund, alongside long-term investment to train 10,000 qualified youth workers and 40,000 adult volunteers.”
Denise Hatton, YMCA’s CEO said,
“This dire situation is only set to get worse before it gets better, as a dramatically increased need for provision is met with further budget cuts locally. Every decision not to invest in youth services right now, forces more and more youth centres into perilous situations.”
Young people must be a priority and it is imperative that the government acts to prevent these missed opportunities for young people to get the support they need, and from which we all benefit as a society.