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Youth Work – supporting young people through Scotland’s recovery

MSYPs gathered on a Zoom call in fancy dress for world book day 2021
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As Scotland recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, youth work will be more important than ever to Scotland’s young people. That’s why it is one of the central themes in our Bounce Back campaign, and why 72% of young people surveyed agreed with our manifesto call:

“Local youth work should be invested in by national and local government and protected by law from budget cuts.” – (From Scotland’s Young People manifesto statement – 72% agree) [1]

The pandemic has seen basically every aspect of our lives take a hit, and youth work hasn’t been immune to that – but in a time when so much is stressful and unstable, young people deserve and require reliable and consistent youth work.

Campaigning in favour of funding and protecting youth work isn’t new territory for SYP; in 2019, 116 young people fed in to our Youth Work and Me report [2]. In this report, young people listed “opportunities, support, greater confidence and self-esteem, friendship, skills, a voice, access to non-formal education, and independence” as some of the benefits youth work brings young people. Furthermore, they described isolation and more mental health problems as a possible consequence of not having access to youth work. Both of these issues are already big enough challenges for Scotland’s young people without the additional stress of not having access to youth work during a pandemic.

Our Lockdown Lowdown report (in collaboration with Young Scot and YouthLink Scotland) also highlights why this is so essential [3]. Almost two fifths of young people said they were worried about their mental wellbeing in the pandemic. Moreover, two fifths were also concerned about the impact on their social relationships. However, the third Lockdown Lowdown survey shows that over one third of young people (35%) think youth work has a role to play as restrictions ease in Scotland [4]. Youth work can alleviate some of this stress, and I’ve seen that first hand!

I’m very lucky to be from an area where youth work has continued throughout the pandemic, albeit in a different form than before. I’ve been able to access regular youth work, getting to communicate with my friends and work on projects that I care about! I’ve been involved in art projects, creating animations, feeding into council reports, weekly kahoot quizzes, and lots of other activities that have kept me busy and kept me in touch throughout this time of social isolation. It has allowed me to express my views on local and national decisions, which is of massive importance during a time that has been so challenging for young people. This has made a major difference to my wellbeing and I do worry where I’d be without it.

With that said though, the systems that I’ve seen in my local authority, while great for me, won’t necessarily work in every area, and haven’t worked for everyone even in my area. These systems have relied heavily on having stable internet connection and access to devices. SYP’s ‘From Scotland’s Young People’ Manifesto also states “Every young person in Scotland should have access to fast and reliable internet and devices to access the digital world, regardless of their geographical location or financial standing”. In order to have youth work for everyone we need to find ways to continue delivering youth work in a variety of formats, accessible to all.

There’s lots of work to do to make sure that every young person can access youth work, and digital connections is just one of many barriers. Taking a human rights based approach to recovery, as our Bounce Back campaign calls for, means valuing youth work, listening to young people and their needs, and making youth work accessible to all young people who need it. I’m optimistic that our decision makers will listen to the voices of Scotland’s young people, and continue working to make sure that every young person can get all of the benefits of youth work.

References:

[1] https://syp.org.uk/our-work/manifesto-2021/

[2]   https://syp.org.uk/campaign/youth-work-and-me/

[3] https://syp.org.uk/our-work/political-work/covid-19-lockdown-lowdown/

[4] https://syp.org.uk/our-work/political-work/lockdownlowdown-phase-3/

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