Make sure you’re counted in this year’s National Youth Sector Census to help make the case for investment to protect and grow the youth sector

At the National Youth Agency (NYA) we are passionate about supporting the sector, to make great youth work happen. The last few years have been tumultuous for young people, for youth workers, and for the wider sector. We firmly believe that it has never been more important to galvanise the sector in strong partnership working and to maximise the investment and support available to every young person.

The youth work sector gained ‘key worker’ status during the COVID pandemic, in recognition of its role in continuing to provide the invaluable support, learning and emotional development opportunities, distinctive to youth work in the places and spaces where young people meet. Despite perceptions of the value of youth work having begun to shift, cuts in local authority funding over the past 12 years means that the way in which services are funded and delivered has changed. Youth work is still happening, but provision is uneven with voluntary and charity organisations on the frontline providing services, often on behalf of local authorities.

As the professional, statutory and regulatory body for youth work in England, NYA is committed to supporting every model of youth work and type of youth worker – including those who do not fit the conventional youth work mould, but who are offering support which accords with the values and principles of Youth Work. We know there are many trusted adults working with young people across a range of settings including healthcare, education, and within the criminal justice system. These provide informal learning opportunities, which empower and support young people to develop solutions to the problems in the world around them – this is great youth work!

Our Celebration of Youth Work event at Westminster, demonstrated the vital importance of youth work to the resilience of communities, whilst highlighting the need for a clearer picture of where provision is falling short to develop evidence-based policies.

In 2020 we launched the National Youth Sector Census with the aim of evidencing the scale and reach of youth sector activities in England, identifying hot-spots and cold-spots of youth provision and ultimately, maximising the impact of government and other funding and leveraging further support into the sector.  Since then, we’ve collected data from over 25,000 organisations or sub-units of organisations from all parts of the sector and the country. Using this data, and with Funding from the Youth Futures Foundation and The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), we have published two ‘State of the Nation’ reports. These go some way towards better bridging these data gaps.  

However, our ambitions are large, and we are looking ahead. We want to fill in more gaps, not just in the level of data collected, but also from those we haven’t yet heard from, amongst voluntary and community sector provision, within faith communities, unincorporated associations, and local authorities. This is why we are urging the entire youth work sector, and all organisations who work with young people, to get on board with the Census. This will help build a more accurate baseline of the youth sector than we have ever had before.

As we plunge deeper into the recession and communities face the challenges of the cost-of-living crises, access to the support of a trusted adult, in a safe space, who can help equip our young people with the self-esteem, resilience and hope for their futures, is paramount. For this reason we are resolute in our ambitions to protect and grow the youth work sector, and the National Youth Sector Census is pivotal to convincing the government that funding for youth services needs to be more consistent, with sustainable investment needed in the local structures and organisations necessary to match the full potential of the National Youth Guarantee.

Our bold ambitions for the Census also include making the data openly available via our new Youth Work One platform, so that anyone can access data on what provision exists in their area and how this correlates with other socio-economic measures; where investment is needed, as well as highlight opportunities for building capacity through partnership working.

Don’t be invisible – please help us by completing the Census today: National Youth Sector Census – NYA

Leigh Middleton, CEO, National Youth Agency

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