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23 September 2020

Rosemary Watt-Wyness
Rosemary Watt-Wyness | Chief Executive

Our Chief Executive, Rosemary Watt-Wyness, spoke to Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London about the funding challenges for youth organisations, six months on from the beginning of lockdown.

You can listen to the whole interview here (from 35:08) or read it in full below.

Funding the youth sector during COVID-19

London Youth has been listening to our members during the pandemic and advocating for the support that they need. Read our report, ‘Running on Reserves’, on how our members have been affected and our recommendations:

  1. Community youth organisations need funding certainty over the next 6-12 months
  2. Community youth organisations need unrestricted funds
  3. Prioritise young people’s mental health
  4. Guidance for changing circumstances

Read the full interview

Rosemary’s the CEO of London Youth, which is a charity that works with hundreds of organisations in London to create opportunities for young people. Rosemary, good morning.

Good morning.

Well, it must have been an incredibly difficult time for your organisation. Can you explain why and what it’s been like for you?

Yes, so Vanessa we’re a network organisation as you say. We’ve got over 600 youth projects around London who are members of London Youth. I think there have really been two big challenges for us and our members. One has been how to try and keep delivery going and make sure that we’ve carried on supporting young people all through that six months, but at the same time coping with often really significant hits to fundraising and really significant hits to income.

I have to say it sounds pretty much impossible to deliver what you need to deliver with far fewer resources and much less money. It sound as if you’re attempting to do something that is almost as difficult as what the Prime Minister’s attempting to do. How have you managed to cope and have you managed to cope?

Well, I think that actually the youth organisations we work with have been incredibly quick and creative about – when we weren’t able to meet in person at all – taking things online and carrying on supporting young people. But as you say, there has been a big, big impact to certain types of fundraising. A lot of our members would have had money before that they earned from renting venues out or from doing work with schools or from selling places in the Marathon or other big challenge events. All of that has dried up.

For us personally at London Youth just as an example, we run two outdoor adventure centres where normally thousands of young Londoners come every year and have an amazing experience. They’ve been shut since March and that’s a massive hit to our income, where we would normally expect to bring in about three million a year from young people schools attending those centres.

So obviously that’s devastating for you but most particularly for the young people who normally benefit from all the different things that you manage to provide for them. So what what can you do? What have you been able to do through all of this?

A lot of youth projects that we work with were incredibly quick to try to provide online support to young people and certainly we as an organisation as well have taken a lot of our support online.

We have managed to deliver training and connect up youth workers and had about 750 youth workers right across London participate in that over the last six months. We have managed to to do that and then organisations had just been through the summer able to restart some activities in a very careful way.

Give us some idea of what these activities are. Because so far we’re speaking generally so I don’t know if anyone listening can imagine what it is you do and what are the types of activities you do online.

We’ve been able to do creative sessions online with young people; music sessions, art sessions, and even we’ve had a calendar of sports sessions linking young people up with lots of online sports classes that members have done.

It’s really been a huge effort to promote positive activities even through lockdown for young people.

Now we’ve got six months more. The Prime Minister is saying we have to be disciplined, we have to knuckle under, we have to do as we’re told and all of that kind of a thing – it’s a collective responsibility. Obviously, all your funding has dried up to a huge extent, what can you offer and what can you hope for in the next six months?

We can take a positive from how those activities have been able to be delivered, but I do think the next six months are going to be really challenging. Really challenging for young people, where we know that unemployment is going to be incredibly high. For some young people, some of the the young people from our Black communities and our Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, we’re particularly worried about their employment prospects.

At the same time, I think the Government’s support with the furlough scheme has been important; a lot of youth organisations have had to use that. It’s worrying about whether actually they will be able to bring those youth workers back or what we’re going to see. We did a survey with our members and about a third of them were saying that they’re worried that they may be driven to closure by their financial impact.

Well, thank you very much indeed for talking to us. We appreciate it enormously, Rosemary, and I wish you all the luck that you can possibly manage with everything you’re trying to do. That’s Rosemary Watt-Wyness, CEO of London Youth. It’s a charity that works with hundreds of organisations to create opportunities for young people. She’s here saying that they haven’t got the funding they normally have and that she’s very worried indeed about employment prospects for all young people, but particularly from various different communities and ethnicities.


Read more about our media work or find our COVID-19 resources, including links to funding and resources.