Youth services debate highlights ‘severely underfunded, under-supported sector’

28 March 2024

  • Blog

Funding for youth services came under the spotlight at a parliamentary debate.

The Westminster Hall debate, touched on many important issues within the youth work sector, including underfunding, inequalities facing young people, and the need for adequate resources, writes Emma Trabazo, UK Youth policy and influencing intern.

Above all, MPs who spoke urged the Government to begin investing in youth work – and thus the future of the country.

We are delighted UK Youth was able to contribute to the debate through extensive research on the benefits of investing in youth work and the importance of youth work itself.

We hope future measures involve the Government helping the sector substantially, to improve the lives of young people across the UK.

Emma Trabazo, UK Youth policy and influencing intern

We are grateful to the multiple MPs, including Rachel Hopkins, shadow minister Lillian Greenwood and parliamentary under-secretary Stuart Andrew, who used UK Youth’s Untapped Report to advocate for the funding of youth services.

Untapped reveals that each pound the Government invests in youth work benefits the taxpayer between £3.20 and £6.40, that the Government currently saves £3.2 billion a year through improved education, employment outcomes and positive impacts on mental health as a result of youth work and that youth work further contributes £5.7bn to the wider economy through jobs, volunteering and local suppliers.

We believe further investments in the youth sector could lead to an even larger increase in benefits seen across society.

Referencing Untapped, Ms Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton South, said youth work sets young people up for healthy, happy and confident lives as part of communities across Britain, an “indispensable component of our national infrastructure”. She said youth work has never been more essential with never before seen challenges – like loneliness, a global health pandemic, and the cost of living crisis.

Most importantly, Ms Hopkins highlighted the “reality of a severely underfunded, under-supported sector that has been deprioritised”.

Rachel Hopkins, Labour MP for Luton South. Picture: parliament.uk

Fundamentally, UK Youth continues to call on the Government to recognise the impact of youth work and commit to investment in youth work to unlock potential for all young people.

This debate is important in raising awareness of the issue, but further steps must be taken. The Government must not only act upon and increase funding, but also must adjust accordingly to the different challenges faced by young people currently.

Labour MPs present at the debate mentioned their plan for mental health hubs in communities, with mental specialists, youth workers, and neighbourhood police officers.

Mr Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities, referenced UK Youth’s research and mentioned the National Youth Guarantee, which states that by 2025, every young people will have access to regular out-of-school activities, Adventures Away from Home and opportunities to volunteer.

He proposed three important plans: the creation and redevelopment of up to 300 youth facilities; continued investment in #iwill to create 60,000 more opportunities for young people to impact their communities through social action; and £2.5 million put towards disadvantaged children and young people accessing green spaces.

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey. Picture: parliament.uk

While UK Youth recognises the differences these proposals will make on the sector, there is an overarching issue of consistent and persistent underfunding across the youth sector that the Government needs to address.

As Ms Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South and shadow civil society minister, pointed out, most funding for youth services have been in the form of funding for capital costs or short term initiatives, leaving organisations to constantly bid to secure new funding.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South. Picture: parliament.uk

The government must establish sustainable funding, so more young people across the country are supported.

Geographical disparities should not undermine the delivery of youth work and the Government must address and work towards lessening this gap and
reaching the most affected communities that would benefit most from youth work.

Additionally, youth work needs to be invested in a lot earlier as a preventative measure.

Mr Andrew urged “central government, local government, and community and voluntary sector organisations as well as young people themselves to work together.”

Young people and organisations are already working together and advocating for the importance of youth work.

We hope future measures involve the Government helping the sector substantially, to improve the lives of young people across the UK.

On the whole, UK Youth is enthusiastic of the occurrence of such debates and our ability to contribute to the conversation with vital research.

We are very grateful to YMCA for scheduling the debate and all of the MPs who attended to advocate for youth services.

The youth work sector has been described as severely underfunded and under-supported.

About us

UK Youth is a leading charity with a vision that all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives. With an open network of more than 8,000 youth organisations and nation partners; UK Youth reaches more than four million young people across the UK and is focused on unlocking youth work as the catalyst of change that is needed now more than ever. To find out more, visit ukyouth.org 

UK Youth is involved in a range of programmes designed to help young people thrive, such as outdoor learning, physical literacy, social action and employability, including Hatch, a youth employability programme run in partnership with KFC. For more on UK Youth’s programmes, see ukyouth.org/what-we-do/programmes

Emma Trabazo, UK Youth policy and influencing intern.
Emma Trabazo, UK Youth policy and influencing intern.
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