These cuts are in the context of widening inequality in the UK as a whole and London in particular – the city has the highest levels of poverty in the country and the highest cost of living. So for many young people, opportunities are out of reach.
Youth charities are doing all they can to make the case for increased investment. London Youth believes youth services are an important part of local infrastructure and that they should be funded as such. We still believe that the scarcity of youth provision is likely to lead to longer-term cost – financially and for young people’s lives – and we will continue to voice these views.
While there are signs that policymakers do recognise the importance of provision outside school, it is hard to see how the revenues we have lost through the cuts will be replaced. So what can organisations supporting young people do to generate replacement funds to keep services going?
At London Youth, we see helping our local member organisations to answer this question as a pivotal part of our role. Sharing examples that work and which others might be able to replicate is crucial. Here are six ways London Youth members are generating extra funds.
These ideas do not just apply in London: across the UK youth work professionals are striving to find and develop new ways to sustain their organisations.
1. Maximising assets
Many of our members hire out sports halls and pitches to businesses and other groups at times when young people are not using them. Some have arrangements with sound artists to utilise recording studios in return for tuition for young people. It is not without cost, and you need to think carefully about safety and risk assessment, but there is potential.
We are hosting an event for our members with Sporting Assets, which specialises in helping community organisations with sports facilities to increase their revenues. And we’re looking, with partners, at the scope for a simple, digital system of brokering venue sharing and hire across our network.
2. Core capabilities
Some organisations now sell services using skills they have established. For example, organisations with digital capabilities are now regularly being commissioned to produce film and wider digital content.
3. Youth work in other settings
More organisations are taking youth work into schools and other settings. Partnering can take considerable time and effort. However, additional activities and support for young people are often needed and partners can be willing to pay for them. Health settings are one area where it is possible to imagine many new applications.
Some buildings-based organisations are working with local authorities and business to develop new provision. Sometimes as part of a broader development, a youth organisation can secure a new or upgraded building and, potentially, ongoing revenue, while the developer secures sales and rental income from adding homes or offices on the site. There can be significant gains, but there are also considerable risks and professional advice is needed to make this work.
Working with big corporations can lead to new money and shared expertise and technical support. We would be naïve to think that business will pick up the voluntary sector tab – it won’t. But businesses increasingly recognise their responsibilities within communities and can be active partners, providing opportunities for young people as well as key skills for organisations.
6. Scaling up
Many small organisations struggle to access commissioning processes or find they are not competing on a level playing field. This is an area in which being part of a network can really help. A great example is our relationship with Sport England. We work with almost 100 members, under a single grant that helps meet the funder’s objective of getting children active in diverse communities, without requiring every small organisation to manage its own funding relationship.
We help our members to aggregate their resource and achieve greater scale and will be seeking to replicate this model in other funding areas. We would urge commissioners to think about similar models to open up their processes to knowledgeable, local organisations.
Developing these approaches is not easy. Some of them require having assets in the first place. But the sector is showing it can be adaptable and resourceful. Learning from each other can really help. We will be devoting more energy to facilitating the exchange of business development ideas between our members.
By Rosemary Watt-Wyness, chief executive, London Youth
Cut in council youth service budgets across London over recent years
Places for young people have been lost with more than 30 youth centres closing
Average cut in council funding to voluntary sector youth providers Source: London’s Lost Youth Services, Siân Berry, Green Party
Source: London’s Lost Youth Services, Siân Berry, Green Party
This article was originally published in Children and Young People Now on the 14th of February 2017.