fbpx "Running on Reserves": The impact of COVID-19 on London's youth sector - London Youth

11 June 2020

This week we released “Running on Reserves”, our latest survey on the impact of COVID-19 on London’s youth sector. You can find the results of our previous survey here or keep up to date with all news and updates about COVID-19 here.

Message from our Chief Executive

London Youth has been around for 133 years and during that time has served and supported its members through an array of challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic, when taken together with the decade of painful austerity that preceded it and the unprecedented recession that will likely follow it, may prove to be one of the largest challenges that London’s youth sector has ever faced.

Rosemary Watt-WynessLike most other charities, we’ve had to make significant changes to how we operate. I’m very proud, for example, that in the months since lockdown began we’ve been able to replace our entire face-to-face training calendar and provide virtual training to 499 youth professionals, which is double the number we trained in the previous quarter. Listening to our members has been vital; through our usual channels, through this survey and the one that preceded it, and through regular forums that allow youth professionals from different organisations to share and solve problems together. Listening has allowed us to shift our support for our members towards managing change and meeting these new challenges.

We’re moving into a new phase of the response to COVID-19, which will bring whole new ways of operating for many community youth organisations. I am determined that London Youth will continue to listen, and that we will do everything we can to serve our members as they do their work, which is needed now more than ever.

We haven’t forgotten about the systemic issues that affected the lives of young Londoners long before this current crisis. We can’t let issues like serious violence, youth unemployment, racial injustice, and cold spots in youth provision around London slip down the priority list.

These challenges are daunting, but I am comforted and inspired by the dedication and determination of London’s youth professionals to improve the lives of young people in any way that they can, no matter the challenges. Our sector’s real resilience lies in its people.”

– Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive

What we learned

Between 18th and 29th May 2020, we surveyed youth professionals from 59 youth organisations in our network on the impact of COVID-19 on their youth organisation, how they were adapting, and what support they needed as we move to the next phase of the pandemic response.

We would like to thank all of our members who took the time to complete this survey at a very busy time.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to be hardest hit, setting them further apart from peers. Ideally government will step in and create opportunities for young people to engage in something positive and build their skills rather than seeing large numbers of young people unemployed.”

Our organisation is fortunate in having the support of funders which have been very flexible and understanding of the effects of the crisis. This is helping in this emergency phase… We are concerned about the picture this time next year.”

Employment, access to services and support, mental health – the lockdown has caused havoc with so many services and has amplified stresses that were already present pre-lockdown, so when many young people needing support post-lockdown we can envision that being a struggle.”

The biggest challenges for young people to face are access to services and support, some of which will no longer exist after the lockdown period. With so many people being made redundant some our young people fear that they will never gain employment with the increased competition in the labour market.”


1) Community youth organisations need funding certainty over the next 6-12 months

We support the response by funders in London, which has rapidly and effectively distributed emergency funding for services to support young people and local communities. We have concerns about the financial sustainability of our members over the next 6-12 months, which aligns with IVAR’s warning of a ‘funding cliff edge’ for charities as they reach the end of emergency funding. We recommend that funders publish their mid-term funding plans to give charities some certainty.

2) Community youth organisations need unrestricted funds

We encourage funders to increase the number of unrestricted grants they make during this period, allowing community youth organisations the flexibility to cover core running costs and to adapt services to changing public health needs over the next year, as we move between COVID-19 alert levels.

3) Prioritise young people’s mental health

The mental health of young people must be a priority in the response to the pandemic. Both young people’s mental health and their access to specialist services were major concerns for youth organisations before this crisis and have only been exacerbated by it. Young people must be supported in the return to ‘normal’, particularly with the return of formal education, and to find help and appropriate socially distanced services.

4) Guidance for changing circumstances

There is an extremely clear case for Government guidance, both for young people and for the youth sector. As we move into different phases of the pandemic response, it is vital that youth organisations know what services they are able to deliver and how they can do so safely. Many community youth organisations, with limited resources and expertise in this area, will be significantly adapting their physical spaces and their operations in the coming months. We are concerned about the burden of doing so without specific guidance to call upon.

We are trying hard to keep in touch with our young people – but it is difficult. They don’t really want to engage online because that is what they have been doing with their school. They are bored and agitated and want to be outside in the good weather. Many are frustrated as they don’t have access to laptops/tablets to amuse themselves with.”

We are based in the epicentre of Covid-19. All members have family or neighbours who have died. Most working parents are bus drivers, nurses or frontline staff.”

Mental health, drugs and violent crime, education – then impacting employment. This is an emergency for young people, it will have a massive impact on their futures, we need to act now to support them in the best way we can.”

We have 3 months of reserves, which took us 8 years to build up.”

You can keep up-to-date with our latest news and updates by signing up to our newsletter, read more about our policy work, or get involved through our Policy Advisory Group.

Contact Clare MacNamara, Policy Manager: clare.macnamara@londonyouth.org

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