GE2024: What the youth sector wants from the next government

28 May 2024

  • Blog

What does impactful and effective policy change look like for young people and the youth sector? The next General Election will be held on Thursday, July 4, which means lots of organisations across the youth sector and beyond are advocating for what they believe the different political parties should commit to in their manifestos, in order to best support young people, writes Kate Roberts, UK Youth policy manager.  

We will be providing bespoke briefings and resources for youth organisations to make our voices heard in the run up to the election. Sign up to our briefing for the sector here

Voters will go to the polls to elect the UK’s next government on Thursday, July 4.

But first, we have reviewed what different youth organisations are calling for and brought it all together for you in this blog, in order to help you cut through the noise. We are very grateful to the Back Youth Alliance, National Youth Sector advisory board, the National Youth Agency, YMCA and the Scouts for their work developing manifestos. 

Unsurprisingly, many of these organisations’ asks are similar. There is a strong focus on the need for more sustainable funding, more joined-up government strategy, investment in the future workforce, and strengthening youth voice. 

Funding and investment

Given the current economic climate, it is not a surprise that youth organisation manifestos are calling for more sustainable, long-term funding for the youth sector. This includes reforms to the way funding is allocated and made available. Unfortunately, it is unlikely significant new funding will be offered in the short term, despite the need to plug the gap of more than £1 billion that has been lost from the youth sector since 2010-11. Therefore, as a nod to the current economic situation, many youth sector manifestos are proposing more targeted-funding asks.  

We cannot afford not to invest in youth work. Our Untapped Report, delivered with Frontier Economics, shows that for every £1 government invests in youth work, the benefit to the taxpayer is at least £3.20 and could be up to £6.40. Youth work already saves the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds and the positive benefits last for decades. There is a real preventative value to youth work that we need to get across to decision-makers. We know funding will remain the most pressing issue for the sector, so we need to be innovative in our campaigning and messaging to cut through to the Treasury. You will see more from UK Youth on this topic in the coming weeks.

Youth work saves the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds and the positive benefits last for decades.

Strategic vision and leadership

All youth sector manifestos highlight the lack of joined-up thinking from across government. Most manifestos call for a new cross-government strategy for young people, as well as a ‘youth minister’ role to have overarching responsibility for the policy decisions affecting young people.  

The essential preventative role of universal, open-access youth work must be recognised by the new government, alongside investment in targeted youth work as a response to urgent challenges faced by specific groups of young people.

All government plans must have youth voice embedded throughout. 


We know workforce remains one of the most pressing challenges facing the youth sector. Youth organisation manifestos call for more training and development opportunities for current youth workers, as well as investment in the recruitment and training of the future workforce.

We also know the youth work sector cannot exist without the involvement of so many volunteers, who also need to be supported and trained well to carry out their roles. It is particularly clear from the uniformed youth sector that more needs to be done to encourage and support volunteers, and their positive impact on young people.  

As a sector, we need a bold and innovative approach to addressing this workforce challenge, increasing the status and profile of the sector, increasing collaboration across sector boundaries and ensuring training keeps pace with the rapid changes in young people’s lives.

Youth offer

All young people deserve youth work. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach and young people should be given a meaningful choice to find the support that would work best for them.

Youth organisation manifestos call for consistent access across the UK, but also highlight the importance of tailoring provision to local needs. This requires support for local partnership working – between youth organisations, local authorities and other professionals supporting young people, such as teachers, social workers etc.

Youth voice

We need opportunities for young people and youth-led organisations to meaningfully participate in the design and delivery of policy and services that impact young people. Following the closure of the British Youth Council, we know youth voice is under threat.  

All youth organisation manifestos ask the next government to ensure youth participation in policy and government decision-making is funded and designed properly to remove barriers to participation.  

Kate Roberts, UK Youth policy manager.

Data and research

A joined-up approach to managing data collection, research and impact measurement is required to build an even stronger youth work evidence base. We need to understand how outcomes for young people are changing, in order to effectively shape policy developments on a national and local level.  

There is already a lot of evidence about the life-changing impact of youth work, across a range of different measures and outcomes. We need to work together to compile this into a comprehensive and compelling narrative and collaborate with young people to prioritise the most important unanswered questions.  

Shape the next government’s offer to young people

Whoever wins the election, it is vital that they hear loud and clear from the youth sector about the current challenges, and amazing solutions on offer.  

These youth organisation manifestos set out the important issues the next government must respond to. However, the devil is in the detail. There is more work to do to break down these chunky asks into deliverable policy solutions, that the next Government can take forward and implement effectively. At UK Youth, we are focused on developing the day-to-day detail to support these manifesto asks. However, we cannot do this alone and would love you to make your voice heard during this election period. 

We will be releasing resources and briefings for youth organisations, as well as supporting young people to have their say. Sign up to our webinar briefing on Wednesday, June 5, from 1-2pm, to find out more about how you can get involved and get answers to any questions you may have.  

About UK Youth

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

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