In June, I had the pleasure of chairing SYP and the Children’s Parliament’s annual Cabinet Meeting with the Scottish Governments Cabinet and also to speak on a topic that is close to my heart, youth work funding. I look forward to seeing positive outcomes from this and to maintain an open dialogue with our partners in government about youth work funding.
I would like to extend my thanks to the First Minister and other ministers for having us, to the SYP and CP staff for all their help, the Members of the Children’s Parliament for being absolute stars and our SYP speakers for doing us so proud!
You can read my speech below:
First Minister, this isn’t the first time this year I’ve spoken to you about the benefits of youth work and the fundamental role it plays in education, tackling poverty and more, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, this time I wanted to come at it from a different angle as there are so many strands of society to which youth work funding is imperative. Even though the connection can sometimes be overlooked, youth work is central to our education system because of the skills it develops. Effective youth work helps young people to learn about themselves, others and about society through non-formal educational activities which involve enjoyment, challenge and learning. It gives young people across the country the freedom and support to express who they are and to grow to become their best selves.
I am a perfect example of what youth work successfully collaborating with education can do for young people. Throughout primary and high school, my youth workers and our wider community tied into our curriculum and worked cohesively to provide the best outcomes for young people. This supportive presence reduced the strain on teachers and it gave young people a safe space and comfort away from the stresses of formal education. It also brought my community closer together, tackled anti-social behaviour and gave young people the fundamental skills they needed for the future. But now that’s not there. The youth work structure that was in place in my town has disappeared due to lack of funding and it has already taken its toll on the community. The same thing is happening all across the country, and it’s even worse in rural and deprived communities, like mine.
We must recognise youth work’s value to our young people and society by allocating consistent funding accordingly. We know youth work is a route out of poverty and a support mechanism for our most vulnerable young people in, but it is also a critical part of our education system and empowers our future work force. Whether it is SYP and Children’s Parliament taking children and young people to the UN to talk about their rights, or local youth workers taking a group to learn outdoors about the world around them. Youth work is a fundamental part of a rights-based education system that develops children and young people’s talents, personalities and potential to the full. As we reform our education system, we hope to move away from the idea that passing an exam is the only sign of success. I hope we build a system that recognises all types of learning. And one that recognises the value of youth work. So today I want to call on the Scottish Government to invest and protect funding for local youth work but also to implement maximal structures so that the sector guidelines are consistent and that young people are getting the most out of the services in place. I implore you to get ministers and local authorities into a room with the youth work sector and of course young people, to come up with funding and long term solutions. Time is running out for our youth work sector and we need a collaborative approach to deal with these challenges head on and before it is too late.
Thank you for listening.