27 April 2020
This is the first of a series of blogs laying out the impact COVID-19 has had on young Londoners and the London youth sector.
About the survey
Between 26th March and 23rd April 2020, we surveyed 290 youth workers from 149 youth organisations in our network on the impact of COVID-19 on their youth organisation, how they were adapting, and what support they needed.
London Youth will follow up this first survey to understand the initial impact COVID-19 has had on our members and their young people. We will monitor how this crisis continues to affect London’s youth sector, the changing needs of young people and youth professionals and the sustainability of youth organisations.
COVID-19 represents an unprecedented challenge. It presents particular challenges for London, where the crisis has unfolded earlier and with a population that is especially vulnerable to the social and economic consequences of COVID-19. London has some of the most deprived and most densely populated areas with the least affordable housing, with more young people than any other part of the UK.
For the youth sector, a fragmented and uniquely vulnerable public service weakened by a decade of funding cuts, COVID-19 risks being a final blow for many of our members. Community youth organisations with strong relationships with young people and the local community, dedicated staff and volunteers, and high-quality opportunities will not all have the financial resilience to survive this crisis without sustained support. In the aftermath, London and young Londoners will need them more than ever.
What we learned
76 of 290 youth workers (26%) said that one of the most immediate concerns for their youth organisation was income and funding. Youth organisations are facing an unprecedented impact to three of their largest streams of funding simultaneously. Even previously sustainable organisations, such as social enterprises with very diversified sources of income, are affected:
- Cancellation of all public fundraising campaigns and challenge events (eg, the London Marathon);
- Income generating trading has stopped entirely (such as hiring out sports facilities or venues); and
- Contracts based on delivery have often paused payments because the delivery has paused.
97 of 290 youth workers (33%) said that their youth organisation was facing significant and immediate financial pressure to the extent that they were considering redundancies or had concerns about covering rent or the future sustainability of the charity.
About the organisations facing significant financial pressure
We can provide further insights on 65 of the youth organisations where youth workers have stated that they are facing significant financial pressure due to COVID-19:
- A total of 13,714 young people are registered at these youth organisations (average of 305 per youth organisation).
- They employ 1,042 full-time and 969 part-time staff (average of 43 and 42 respectively), and work with 118 full-time and 673 part-time volunteers (average of 8 and 59 respectively).
- Just under half of these organisations hold a London Youth Quality Mark or have done in the past (18 current and 7 expired), and another 12 are currently in the process.
The support our members need
Youth workers identified several key ways that youth organisations could be financially supported:
- Core funding to cover running costs (specifically wage support for non-furloughed staff, rent and utilities, expenditure on facilities) in the medium term or until face-to-face provision can resume.
- Clarity from funders on adapting contracted programmes to online delivery.
- Concern about the medium-term impacts of postponing or repurposing towards the COVID-19 response of all funding streams. A common response was that even organisations not in need of emergency support currently will require additional funding in the next few months and into 2021.
- Funding to support increased demand or new services (eg, administration support for adapting services, homelessness support, PPE for organisations still delivering, staff equipment like laptops).
In our members’ words
We have no income coming in and as an organisation that up until a couple of weeks ago was sustainable, we are now fighting for our lives.”
We have had to close our delivery and main office premises. We have had to lay off 3 freelance members of staff who are struggling massively to access Universal Credit. We have had to put on half-time 1 member of staff. We have had to put the CEO on a voluntary basis for now as she has a small pension income.”
We’ve closed, the majority of our income streams have ceased, we’re still committed to delivering funded work but are in the predicament of honouring committed fees now, but then needing to find those funds again once we’re up and running and ready to start delivering again. We’re forecasting to run out of cash in 6-9 months and will probably need loan financing as we rebuild. Most of our staff are furloughed, although we are trying to maintain interesting social media feeds with content to entertain and support create learning.”
Funding still remains our most immediate concern. Some of our funding applications have been unsuccessful due to funders changing the focus for funds. We are managing to complete and submit applications for COVID19 funds, however these are for much smaller amounts. Whilst we remain optimistic, these are really very worrying times for everyone.”
The charity is organised to generate enough income during the Spring and Summer to sustain the organisation through the colder and quieter winter months. We have now lost all of this income, which coupled with a large deficit, puts the survival of the charity at grave risk. Most staff are now furloughed also. The charity’s animals still need to be fed and housed which comes in at great expense. Without reserves to draw upon to do this, the charity is in a dire situation. My grave concern is that the financially crippling effect this has might mean there isn’t an organisation for the young people to return to when this is over.”
The charity’s cash flow for April-June is at risk as we had unrestricted income forecast from challenge events (now cancelled) and four likely statutory contracts (suspended as DWP staff have been diverted to Universal Credit claims). The social enterprise’s two stores have had to close which means a total loss of sales income.”