A new cross-party report calls for the Government to act now to secure essential services to keep young people safe and secure, and to transform their lives for the better.
In the face of mounting challenges from knife crime, mental health and future employment, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Affairs has called for political leadership ‘from the top’ with a Cabinet Minister held accountable to Parliament, and a strengthened national body for youth work to mobilise, train and support qualified youth workers, trainees and skilled volunteers.
The report identified cuts to youth work as being short-sighted. Investing in youth work provides long-term savings, notably for young people ‘at risk’ of crime or on the edge of care or below the threshold of statutory interventions for mental health. However, it is not simply about cost-savings.
The loss of youth services has contributed to the rise in knife crime. The PM’s Summit made clear we cannot ‘arrest’ the issue away. Youth work provides a safe environment and a qualified youth worker to build trust and de-escalate conflict.
- For young people at greatest risk, the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) report from Rotherham highlighted the role of youth workers trusted by young people to recognise the issues and advocate on their behalf.
- For many families who cannot afford a hobby or leisure activity or a holiday, youth clubs and youth work activities are a game-changer.
- For communities and society at large, youth workers ensure young people are equipped to learn and earn, form healthy relationships and make positive change in their communities.
- For future employment, youth work develops so-called ‘soft skills’ that support resilience, self-esteem, social awareness, communication, critical thinking.
If we are to do right by our young people they need access to youth work for professional advice and support and a safe place for friendships, learning opportunities and to have fun.
Launching the report, Chair of APPG Youth Affairs Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP said:
“The loss of funding and lack of political leadership means that youth work services have been eroded. Long term support for all young people sacrificed for short term interventions for a few. The Government’s own civil society strategy recognises ‘the transformational impact that youth services and trained youth workers can have’. It must act now. We need a coherent approach and investment to secure and sustain youth work.”
APPG Youth Affairs Vice-Chair Ben Bradley MP added:
“Young people today face a range of complex and multiple issues that can have a devastating impact on their life-chances and overall happiness. Choices they make and the skills they gain can also open up huge opportunities, shaping their futures. Yet too many young people do not have the family or social networks to support them, and need somebody to help. We need to establish a clear duty and guidance to ensure young people can access quality youth work.”
Supporting the report, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, Leigh Middleton said:
“At its heart, youth work harnesses the skills of all young people not fulfilled by formal education. We cannot expect it all to be done by schools. However, the recruitment of youth workers is in decline. Skilled volunteers have an important part to play, but they too need training and support. We welcome the Government’s commitment to strengthen the youth work workforce by working with us to open up career pathways in youth work. This is an important first step in response to the cross-party recommendations.”
Youth Employment UK CEO Laura-Jane Rawlings says:
“We fully support this review and recommendations from the APPG for Youth Affairs. Young people tell us that they would like better access to trusted adults who can help support them through key transitions – not just education and employment transitions, but personal transitions, too.
Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than any other group. They have suffered through austerity, losing precious support services including Connexions and Youth Services. Social mobility is not improving and disjointed government initiatives often disadvantage young people who need help the most, albeit unintentionally.
We hope that the government acts swiftly on these recommendations.”
Youth Employment UK is the Secretariat for the APPG for Youth Employment. Find out more about our policy work and what we do.