fbpx London Youth highlights the risk of levelling down young Londoners - London Youth

03 February 2022

The Prime Minister’s speech last summer set the direction of travel for the Levelling Up White Paper published yesterday. London Youth has been repeatedly making the case to national policymakers to:

  • recognise and reflect London’s unique structural and racial inequalities when defining policy interventions for disadvantaged young people
  • acknowledge that any levelling down of London would be to the detriment of the health of a vibrant and sustainable national youth offer

We set out our initial position on Levelling-Up here  and  our views on where further phases of the £368 million Youth Investment Fund should be directed here

The additional detail in the White Paper outline proposals for a National Youth Guarantee which aims to provide accessible youth services for every young person by 2025.

This will include:

  • £171m investment in a new year-round National Citizen Services (NCS) which offers residential stays, non-residential work in the community and online opportunities including workshops in financial management and public speaking.
  • The NCS will pilot a ‘Year of Service’ programme, an employability initiative offering young people a nine- to 12-month paid service placement in their local communities. The pilot is planned to support 330 young people into socially impactful jobs with wages funded by the NCS Trust CiC and the government’s Kickstart scheme.
  • Youth services across 45 local authorities and around 600 district wards in the most deprived parts of England will be eligible to apply for capital spend from the £368m Youth Investment Fund. In  London only Barking and Dagenham and Tower Hamlets are within scope.
  • The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme will be offered to every state-funded secondary school in England by 2025, in collaboration with the Department for Education.
  • Waiting lists for uniformed youth groups for 11- to 18-year-olds in England will be scrapped.
  • DCMS will provide £4m to the iwill fund to create youth volunteers opportunities.
  • The government will fund approximately 550 bursaries for entry level qualifications in youth work.

We are very disappointed  to see such a limited offer for London within this, and for our members. It always adds great impact to what we say though when media and politicians hear first hand from them. Frentford Clubs member and CEO, Irfan Shah spoke for many in London’s youth sector when he expressed disappointment and frustration at the Levelling Up White Paper announcement.  We were delighted to see this featured on the BBC London News .

We have expressed a clear position as London Youth. Our CEO, Rosemary Watt-Wyness set this out in the following statement:

The Levelling Up White Paper rightly recognises the need for all young people to have access to out of school activities, adventures away from home and opportunities to volunteer –  irrespective of geography.  London Youth exists to underpin precisely this kind of richness of experience for all young Londoners, supporting over 600  grassroots youth organisations and running  two residential centres. We also welcome the move to NCS working with partners to offer year-round activities. We have long advocated for this. We know how critical ongoing, locally accessible sporting, skills development, creative and outdoor learning opportunities are to the physical and mental health of young people, as well as to their future prospects. With this in mind we will contribute wherever we can to secure and deliver the National Youth Guarantee for London’s young people. It is badly needed. 

Nearly two thirds of our capital’s youth facilities have closed over the last decade. We have made this point before. But this is a particularly acute loss now we are also coping with the effects of the pandemic on young people’s emotional and physical health. We face a mental health crisis amongst London’s young people and an escalating obesity crisis.  

As an organisation we are therefore disheartened to see that other initiatives aimed at levelling-up the youth sector exclude some of London’s poorest communities.  The visible hallmarks of prosperity in London mask the highest rate of childhood deprivation in the UK. Young people of colour have hugely higher unemployment rates than white young people. And most of those young people live in London. Yet only two London boroughs are currently within scope of the Youth Investment Fund (YIF) initiatives. Whilst we welcome the confirmation that YIF capital spend for new youth clubs will be backed by revenue spend for vital youth worker support, what about the support for existing clubs where youth service provision is so scant and the need to support vulnerable young people so great? If this need is not reflected in further funding phases there is a real risk of further deprivation for thousands of young Londoners who already feel forgotten and left behind”.

We will be saying more on this subject with our London partners. But we invite you to share your views to us direct, or at any of our Policy Advisory Group sessions. You can drop us a line anytime.

Clare MacNamara, Policy and Public Affairs Manager. clare.macnamara@londonyouth.org.


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