This week a new £5 million fund was announced by DCMS – its goal; to increase the reach of uniformed groups with young people from deprived areas. We are always excited when youth work gets new funding as we understand its huge value in society and the vital support it provides millions of young people across the UK.
The new funds will create 5,500 spaces for young people in uniformed programmes groups such as police cadets, Scouts, Girl Guides and faith-based organisations, some of which are part of the UK Youth network. Along with creating new spaces, funds will also be allocated towards funding expansion and development of new groups.
The expansion and aim to reach more disadvantaged young people through uniformed programmes is fantastic news. However, alongside this new funding we also want to advocate for more diversified funding on behalf of our national network of local youth organisations, many of whom provide inclusive advice and guidance through non-uniformed support.
Our network includes thousands of local youth organisations who are committed to working with young people on their terms. The UK Youth network already disproportionately targets some of the most disadvantaged areas in the UK with over half of the young people on our programmes coming from 30% of the most disadvantaged areas.
Not only do these youth organisations reach young people most in need of support, they are changing the lives of millions of young people across the UK, with 88% of the young people on our programmes reporting improved life skills like confidence, resilience and motivation.
Yet despite all their great work, local youth services are the ones who have been at the forefront of funding cuts, with £737 million cut since 2010/11.
Our CEO Anna Smee stands behind the call to invest in a variety of youth work; “Young people deserve inclusive and supportive spaces – these come in all shapes and sizes, large and small, uniformed and non uniformed, in and out of school, open access and targeted. We must invest in all of them.”
As it stands, the allocation of funding appears to favour a specific type of youth work with only uniformed groups being supported. It is critical that young people get a choice and options to successfully engage them in creating their own future rather than prescribing their journey. With 77% of our participants experiencing at least one personal barrier such as mental health issues, being a young carer or coming from a low income family, we understand that youth work needs to be as diverse as the people who need it.
That is why we are calling for match funding for non-uniformed local youth organisations who are best equipped to provide the support and safe spaces required to empower all young people to build bright futures.