The latest survey of the sector shows that, as we move into our second winter under Covid-19 restrictions, still only 54% of youth work have access to the facilities they need.
If we are to ensure that young people have access to the support they need, it is essential that safe spaces for youth work are made available – as a matter of urgency. We know that youth work is key to reaching and engaging young people, to providing mental health support, signposting other services, tackling isolation and helping young people re-engage in learning. It is therefore imperative that these services are made available in the community.
The survey does show an improved picture with 54% of total respondents having access to the facilities they need, compared to just 22% in June 2021.
However, while things have improved in the past year, 46% of youth work providers are not able to access the facilities they need and the survey suggests that significant issues remain:
The wider issue of the ongoing lack of permanent facilities has been highlighted through the survey, with 78% of respondents who have their own premises now having full access.
Tim Frew, CEO YouthLink Scotland said:
“We have serious concerns around the lack of vital youth work support and the impacts this will continue to have. We know young people are continuing to deal with the detrimental consequences of the pandemic. The impact on learning loss and mental health will only be further exacerbated while the current challenges surrounding access persist.”
Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner commented:
“If children and young people are our priority then an urgent solution needs to be found. We simply cannot have a situation where many young people are struggling to access essential youth work services. If this same situation was happening in schools, there would quite rightly be a national outcry.”
“Youth workers play a hugely important roles as trusted adults, providing safe spaces and support for children and young people outside of their family relationships. The pandemic has highlighted and further entrenched existing inequalities and providing vital youth work services with access to community spaces to work directly with children and young people over the winter months and beyond must be a priority. The Scottish Government and COSLA must take a proactive approach to increase access so that children and young people’s rights are protected and promoted.”
Graeme Luke, CEO of Scouts Scotland says his organisation nationally is experiencing significant challenges with access to facilities:
“Our amazing volunteers have excelled in creatively delivering services throughout the pandemic but can’t go through another winter in outdoor spaces with lack of access to basic facilities and our vital services are at real risk of permanent disruption when they are needed more than ever. Our organisation has worked tirelessly throughout the past 19 months to keep our members safe and our most recent membership survey has shown that we are well on track to returning to pre-pandemic numbers and this lack of access really threatens this achievement as our volunteers are frustrated and feel undervalued by this lack of progress.”
Want to find out more about the ongoing campaign for access to youth work spaces, then check out the latest report.