Funding cuts hitting UK youth services as demand grows, report says

Survey finds 66% of 1,759 organisations face more demand but 83% say funding has decreased

 youth services are failing to meet increasing demand during the pandemic while facing a rapid decrease in funding, a report has revealed.

The research from UK Youth, a leading charity for the sector, into the impact of Covid-19 on youth services found that 66% of the 1,759 organisations surveyed said there had been an increase in demand.

Despite this greater need for their services, 83% reported that their level of funding had decreased while 64% said they were at risk of closure in the next 12 months.

The impact of losses on this scale would have a “devastating impact” on young people at time when the personal wellbeing and mental health of many was being negatively affected by the pandemic, said Ndidi Okezie, chief executive at UK Youth. “We cannot let young people fall through the net because crucial services were allowed to disappear,” she said

The report features data gathered during the application process for the UK Youth Fund, a £2m lifeline pot that provides Covid relief funding for local youth organisations.

The pandemic has forced many youth organisations to either significantly adapt their operations through, for instance, moving online or offering extra sessions so as to remain in compliance with Covid restrictions and this has added to their financial burden.

Okezie said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has hit youth organisations in the shadow of 10 years of extreme cuts. The impact of the pandemic has had a devastating effect on young people and the safe spaces that support millions of them.”

The report calls for “unrestricted long-term financial aid” to be made available to the youth sector in order to address the sector’s “urgent and considerable” need. Ahead of the 2019 general election, the government announced a new £500m youth investment fund to address the funding shortfall in youth services but the release of the funding has been delayed due to the pandemic.

Fiona Hamilton-Fairley MBE, the CEO and founder of the Kid’s Cookery School, a charity that delivers cooking lessons to children across London, said: “We’ve got a lovely facility but we’ve got to pay our rent and utility bills or otherwise we get thrown out. Without this grant [from the UK Youth Fund], we would not be able to offer our services to so many different communities.”

Greg Pennington, junior chairman of the Community Cricket Club in Southport, said: “The pandemic has been very costly and we’ve probably spent three times more than normal to keep running in that time. We’ve never been through anything like this and we don’t have the answers but you feel a responsibility to not let your community down. We’ve managed to keep flying the flag but more people in the community are looking to us, so the next few months will be challenging.”

Elizabeth Woollam, an NHS worker and parent of two children aged nine and seven who attend cricket training at the club in Southport, said: “The club has been really great for providing them with a focus, especially given the uncertainty around schooling this winter. It’s been great for their self-esteem that they’ve been able to have positive shared experiences with their friends in a safe environment.”

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the vital role youth services play and are providing dedicated support to help them manage the impact of the pandemic on young people.”

Source: The Guardian


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