Youth work sector demands new legislation to protect vital services

YouthLink Scotland has made three key demands of politicians to ensure all young people have access to high-quality youth work provision.

Today Scotland’s youth work sector is calling for a new law to ensure every young person can access vital youth work services. This call from YouthLink Scotland highlights the ongoing crisis of underfunding in the sector and its devastating impact on young people and communities.

Youth work plays a crucial role beyond the classroom, providing essential support that improves mental health, re-engages young people in education, and equips them with life and work skills. Despite clear evidence of youth work’s positive impact, the sector continues to face severe financial constraints. Our Manifesto Statement presents a bold vision for a resilient, well-supported youth work sector and calls on politicians from all parties to prioritise investment in our young people.

Ask One: A Legal Right to Youth Work

Without a legal duty to provide youth work services, many young people are unable to access the support they need. The lack of crucial provision has contributed to a rise in poor mental health, youth violence, and communities stripped of youth centres and opportunities. A legal duty is now required to fulfill our responsibility to Scotland’s young people.

Ask Two: The Publication of a New National Youth Work Strategy

A comprehensive National Youth Work Strategy is essential to guide the future of youth work in Scotland. This strategy must focus on sustainable funding, alignment with local and national priorities, recognition of volunteer contributions, the incorporation of UNCRC and strategies for workforce growth and diversity.

Ask Three: Protected Investment for Youth Work

Stable and increased resource is key to ensuring the availability and quality of youth work services. The manifesto calls for protected budgets and ongoing investment in workforce development, ensuring we are training the youth workers of the future. The current lack of funding not only hinders the sector but also places additional financial burdens on public budgets due to increased social issues.

"Scotland’s young people deserve action, not just promises."

Tim Frew, CEO, YouthLink Scotland

While these issues are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, we stand in solidarity with our colleagues across the UK, recognising shared challenges and the importance of collaborative efforts to address them.

This call to action asks politicians to step up their commitment to Scotland’s young people by committing to policy change in this area. By ensuring access to high-quality youth services and supporting the sector’s development, Scotland can empower its young people and enhance their future prospects.

Commenting on the youth work sector’s manifesto statement, YouthLink Scotland CEO Tim Frew said: “Scotland’s young people deserve action, not just promises. Our pressing duty of care to them is unmet due to severe underfunding and lack of a legal duty that would ensure young people can access youth work services.

Youth work is a lifeline, boosting mental health, re-engaging young people in education, reducing youth violence and anti-social behaviour and building essential life skills. We need urgent legislation to guarantee every young person access to these vital services, in line with their UNCRC rights. By enacting a legal duty and ensuring robust investment, we can support and empower our future generations.”

Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament Ellie Craig MSYP said: “This year, Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament spoke to over 4,000 young people in communities across Scotland to select our national campaigns for the next two years. Alongside mental health training and ending gender-based violence, young people told our members they wanted to see us campaign to protect and invest in youth work services across Scotland.

This mandate confirms what we already knew – youth work changes lives. This new Youth Work Manifesto echoes our calls for all young people across Scotland to have a right to youth work and for the services which continue to provide for the young people that need them most to have their budgets protected and properly invested in.”

Find out more about our vision for a youth work sector that is fully funded to support Scotland’s young people.

Young person wearing climbing equipment stands in front of a beautiful wild background in Scotland.