Jim Sweeney: ‘Youth work is a vital service and should never be regarded as an optional extra’

YouthLink Scotland welcomes much of the Smith Group report and in particular the importance it places on tackling the major problem of youth unemployment currently facing Scotland and the UK.

We agree with the statement in the report that the cost to society of ignoring disaffected 16 to 19-year-olds is significant and would add that this particular issue cannot be underestimated or overlooked.

We are particularly supportive of the following key recommendations put to the Scottish Government in this report: the need for a strong connection between national strategy and local delivery; targeting of the “At Risk” population; effective support at critical stages of development; transition for young people and narrowing the gap between education and the world of work.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

As the national agency for youth work, YouthLink Scotland and our members have worked with previous administrations and continue to work closely with the current Scottish Government to address many of these issues.

In addition, many of our voluntary sector and local authority member organisations focus their services on young people who are directly affected by the current economic situation.

Further, sustained investment in youth work is vital if we are to develop in Scotland a national infrastructure that truly offers wholly positive options to our young people and reduces the number defined as NEET.

In its many different forms, youth work helps to develop skills, opportunities, self confidence and a sense of community cohesion for our young people, many of whom come from some of the most disadvantaged and hardest to reach communities.

For the thousands of young people and communities it engages with, youth work represents the ultimate form of preventative spend.

It is an effective way of engaging with our young people and helping them to a positive destination, precisely because it does not see them as a problem and because it works in partnership with them on their terms and on their territory rather than prescribing, directing or coercing.

Both universal and targeted youth work services operate within a flexible framework which places them in a unique position to respond to the many challenges outlined in the Smith Group report as well as key recommendations from the recent Christie Commission report and the Scottish Government’s proposed reforms to post-16 education.

Those of us that work for and in the interests of our young people must continue to focus on working together across the public, private and voluntary sectors to make sure that we are effectively addressing the root causes of youth unemployment.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Youth work is a vital service in helping to deliver and realise this and should never be regarded as an optional extra.

• Jim Sweeney is chief executive, YouthLink Scotland