Politicians from all parties are being urged to “step up” their support for youth workers, as the sector warned it was in a “precarious” position.
In the run up to May’s planned Holyrood election, the organisation YouthLink Scotland said all parties must commit to investing in youth services – warning without this young people could be hit even harder by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The organisation has launched its own manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament vote with three key demands for the sector – in which 80,000 youth workers work to support 350,000 young people across the country.
YouthLink Scotland’s manifesto, which is titled, Resilient, Resourceful and Reimagined, calls on politicians across the sector to support a right for all young people to be able to access youth work services.
It demands greater investment in the sector – noting a survey of youth workers it carried out in 2019 found 70% of youth workers said their budgets had been cut in the past three years, with half complaining of “severe cuts to funding”.
Finally, the manifesto sets out that there should be formal recognition of the positive impact youth work can have.
YouthLink Scotland CEO Tim Frew 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.”
He added: “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.”
Ross Martin, the chairman of Scotland’s Local Authority Youth Work Managers said: “We need to make sure that we continue to make our young people a priority, and that means the services that support them and the funding and policy commitments that makes that happen.
“Funding for youth work is already on a knife edge so it is imperative that all politicians make youth work a priority area, so we can continue to provide vital services to young people who are dealing with the negative impacts of Covid-19 on their wellbeing and education.”
Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said: “Our experience of Covid-19’s impact over the past year has reinforced our belief in the vital role youth work plays in children and young people’s lives.
“As we move towards a Scotland free of the pandemic, youth work will be a necessary building block, supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing and helping them to move into a more positive future.”
She added: “Youth work deserves sufficient funding and esteem from the next Scottish Government to enable it to play its part to the full. We need it more than ever.”
Meanwhile Martin Crewe, director of the children’s charity Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Youth work services play a vital role in helping young people maintain good mental health, boost educational attainment, and gear up to enter the world of work – all priority issues for Barnardo’s and the young people we work with.
“The need for youth work services is all the more important and urgent as a result of the Covid pandemic whose negative effects will be with us for some time.”