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Westminster

23 July 2019

Tomorrow, Boris Johnson will be moving into No. 10 Downing Street. The Prime Minister’s desk will be filling up with papers from every government department and lobby group about every issue in the country.

To support young people, here are the five things that we think he should know.

1: Cuts have consequences

Think of your workplace and picture every person you work with. Holding them all in your head? Good. Now remove half of them. This isn’t a joke about Marvel movies, instead it’s what literally happened to London local authority youth workers between 2011/12 and 2018.

Every single one of those youth workers had their own knowledge and experience, or did something that a colleague has had to pick up – or now just isn’t done anymore. Now imagine the hours of programmes those 800 youth workers could have delivered to young people, or the hours of talking and counselling and building trusted relationships. Those lost hours are the real impact of austerity on public services.

We may be reaching the point where policymakers and the general public are aware of the damage that has been done to the youth sector and the effect it has had. But, as new reinvestment is announced or hoped for, it is vital that we make sure the consequences of austerity on the youth sector aren’t forgotten or misunderstood.

2: We need a plan

The current youth minister (actual title: Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Civil Society and Sport!) is the most junior minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, one of the smaller government departments. Did you know that that the minister for horse racing is more senior than the youth minister?

The responsibility for young people and youth work has bounced around three different departments over the last decade, moving from the Department for Education, to the Cabinet Office, to DCMS. There’s not been a unified government plan for supporting young people outside of formal education. DCMS did propose a youth strategy, which was delayed and then cancelled and then folded into the larger strategy for charities and civil society, where it was widely criticised for failing to answer the big questions facing the youth sector.

We don’t know where the responsibility and resources to ensure a sustainable youth sector are meant to be held. DCMS say that local authorities are responsible for delivering youth services and are currently reviewing the official guidance they’re given to do so. But, local authorities say that their funding has been cut so much that this is an increasingly unrealistic expectation, particularly as delivering youth services isn’t one of the public services that they are legally mandated to deliver.

Young people and youth work deserve to be taken seriously. It’s time for a serious plan that doesn’t put the big questions off for another decade.

3: Look ahead to 2044

The oldest young people, those who are 25 today, were born in 1994. Boris Johnson will be the sixth Prime Minister since they were born, not to mention the nine governments, three Mayors of London, and numerous ministers and secretaries of state they’ve seen. Those young people have been shaped by the support they received over their entire lives and by the changing policies that have produced it.

The babies born today will be 25 years old in 2044. There’s a lot we don’t know about what that year will look like – about the future of work and how society will have changed. What we do know is that young people will still need support. They’ll still need places to go, they’ll still need to build strong and trusted relationships, and they’ll still need positive things to do. If we want the adults of tomorrow to have that support, then we need to build the means of providing that support today.

As the rise in violence over the last several years has shown, problems in society can takes years or decades to manifest and to be fully recognised. As the response to violence has also shown, there are no quick solutions to these complex problems once established.

We need long-term thinking, from the time a child is born until they’ve fully transitioned into adulthood, and to recognise that prevention is always better than intervention.

4: London isn’t perfect

London Youth has been championing some of the best that London has to offer for over 130 years. We are proud of what London can be, should be, and often is. It’s true that London is the political, cultural, and economic capital of the country. Money and power flow to it and through it, and it’s full of amazing opportunities. That’s one London.

The other London has some of the most entrenched areas of deprivation in the country. It has a rocketing cost of living and rates of in-work poverty. It has gentrification and the break-up of communities, and population growth in areas without sufficient infrastructure or funding. It has tragically high rates of violence and ever-younger people who don’t feel safe. It has people who are locked out of the opportunities that surround them on all sides.

Resentment at the idea of the first London shouldn’t stop the other London from getting the investment and resources it needs. Boris Johnson has been a London MP since 2015 and was the Mayor of London for eight years. He knows both sides of London and should stand up for London getting the resources and powers it needs to find its own solutions.

5: We all benefit from youth work

We know that youth organisations help young people to develop and grow into adulthood, to be happy and healthy, and to feel part of their communities and wider society through positive opportunities. But, we’ve also shown in our research how much those organisations also make communities stronger. When young people are supported and communities are strong, all of society benefits.

The inspirational work is out there. Experienced and knowledgeable youth professionals are working with young people in outstanding youth organisations every single day in every single borough of London. We know because almost 500 of them are members of London Youth.

Listen to those well-established, grassroots organisations and give them the support and resources that they need, because we all benefit from youth work.


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Samuel Howell, Policy Officer