We need a national conversation to bring about policy change that ensures our sector are able to access community facilities and the school estate. There needs to be a parity of value with formal education, where access is there, without barriers and financial cost.
Over the last two years, YouthLink Scotland, on behalf of the youth work sector, has carried out 5 surveys on the issue of access to facilities.
Young people are still dealing with the detrimental consequences of the pandemic and two years with severely restricted access to youth work spaces and support continues to have a negative impact.
Access to dedicated spaces for youth work providers has always been an issue, although it reached crisis point during lockdown restrictions. Going forward we need to open a national conversation to bring about policy change that ensures our sector are able to access community facilities and the school estate. There needs to be a parity of value with formal education, where access is there, without barriers and financial cost. The impact on learning and mental health will only be further exacerbated while the current and systemic challenges surrounding spaces for youth work persist.
We can look to examples across the EU where youth work facilities and dedicated spaces are viewed as essential for the development and education of young people. Finland, a country similar in size to Scotland, has a flourishing youth work sector, and their statistics clearly demonstrate their young people are also flourishing as a result.
There needs to be a policy shift on access to facilities. Our school estate, which is a fantastic capital asset, is still, primarily, accessed by formal education, with no right for youth work organisations to share the benefits of this asset.
Capital investment is required to build/refurbish dedicated youth spaces in communities around the country.
We have to ensure young people have access to the support they need, it is essential that safe spaces for youth work are available. We know that youth work is key to reaching and engaging young people, to provide mental health support, signpost to other services, tackle isolation and help young people re-engage in learning.