Two years on from the landmark report on youth work, Leigh Middleton, NYA’s CEO presented evidence in Parliament on the vital role youth work plays, transforming young lives. The cross-party meeting is part of new inquiry on youth work led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Youth Affairs. The APPG’s 2019 report was a watershed to reaffirm and establish youth work on the national agenda, with the main political parties including 2019 manifesto commitments related to youth services and youth work. The new inquiry will look at progress made since, the impact of the pandemic and priorities for the youth work as we head into the government’s 2022-25 Spending Review.
The meeting today highlighted the need for greater investment in youth work, with the two-year delay in the £500m youth investment fund impacting on an already underinvested sector. Covid-19 has seen the closure or restrictions on youth provision at the outset, and has disproportionately impacted on young people, including their education, employment, mental health and exploitation. Yet youth work is now recognised as an “essential service” and qualified youth workers as “key workers”. However, without adequate investment young people will be left unable to access high quality youth services.
NYA is calling for a levelling up of opportunities, including a baseline £1.2bn investment in the youth sector. With the work currently being undertaken by NYA on the National Youth Sector Census there will be a clearer picture of the scale of youth provision currently available, and where the gaps are to meet local needs. It is vital to ensure all young people are able to access high quality youth provision. The capacity and resilience of youth services, charities and community providers has been severely tested during the pandemic, to maintain support for young people and to meet increased needs. Therefore a larger qualified youth workforce, with an additional 10,000 qualified youth workers and mobilisation of trained volunteers, is imperative to support young people to reach their potential and thrive.
Leigh Middleton commented,
“Youth services provide a safe space for young people to develop not just academically but improve their wellbeing and employability skills to name a few. Implementing high quality youth work as part of the recovery strategy for young people will ensure all young people are able to reach their full potential and thrive. An additional £1.2bn invested in youth services would go a long way to help put young people at the heart of Covid-recovery, supported in the present and ambitious for their future.”
Up to 3 million vulnerable young people have increased needs exacerbated by the pandemic, it is therefore imperative that we act now to ensure we do not create a ‘lost generation’.