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Young people at youth club

05 January 2021

For those of us who work in, and on behalf of, the capital’s youth sector, 2021 will be the most important year in our careers.

The pandemic has caused the biggest dip in the economy in 300 years, young people will bear the brunt of the impact in terms of lost opportunities, and the majority of the smaller youth clubs that so many of them rely on are at risk of closure. How do we proceed in the face of this adversity?

Living through the events of the last 12 months, we’ve had to adapt and adjust from lockdown to lockdown. It’s been difficult to gain a sense of perspective. But if you go back three centuries to a similar seismic event in the capital – the Great Fire of London – you begin to get a sense of the scale of the recovery task ahead of us.

This generation of young people – the first of the new millennium to come of age – will face unprecedented challenges unseen in our lifetimes: lost schooling, Covid-related mental health issues, increased poverty and higher unemployment. They need sources of hope and support.

To provide that hope and support we all need to pull together, innovate and embrace new ways of working in the way the architects, builders and communities did after 1666. The new lockdown may feel like a step backwards and there are more months of restrictions ahead, but young people urgently need us to start thinking longer term now.

The team effort will need to include:

  • Frontline youth workers and youth organisations, who have been there for young people through thick and thin during the restrictions, and who understand most clearly what young people will need
  • Borough-level infrastructure organisations to facilitate local co-operation and the pooling of resources wherever possible
  • Funders and policymakers to make informed, joined-up decisions on how best to invest limited resources
  • And larger more resilient organisations like London Youth to support the smaller youth clubs most at risk with training, capacity-building and funding; to provide programme opportunities to safeguard young people’s physical and mental wellbeing; and to highlight emerging gaps in youth sector provision
  • We’ll also be championing new digital ways of working to meet the needs of the capital’s youth organisations through the leaner times ahead

In the interim, with so many smaller youth clubs at risk of closure, it’s crucial that the Government releases the £500 million committed to the sector as soon as possible. And considers repurposing NCS funds to underpin the community organisations that would have delivered it.

It’s cold and dark outside and the new restrictions will cause further disruption for young people. But the new year can still bring new hope. A bold and resilient London emerged 300 years ago and provided innovation and new ways of thinking for the whole country. We can use the next 12 months to start to do the same.

– Gareth Price | Head of Development

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