Creating better futures and safer communities

Let’s deliver long-term investment in safe places for young people to go, where there’s something inspiring for them to do alongside brilliant, trusted youth workers they can confide in.

The problem for young people

The sad reality is that as a society, we’re massively failing young people and the big picture is only getting worse.

There really is an incredible amount of potential to unlock in all our young people. We can all do amazing things when we’re given the chance. None of us are born lazy, naughty or dysfunctional; adults and the society we create transform our youth into these things.

It’s an understatement to say that politicians aren’t doing enough.

Spending on youth services fell by over three quarters in a single decade, from around £1.5bn in 2010/11 to £377m in 2020/2. Nearly 1,000 youth clubs have closed in that time and almost 5,000 youth workers have disappeared with them.

Where are young people meant to go outside of formal education to find inspiration and meaning in their lives? Who will fill that gap between teachers and parents? People can’t follow in footsteps they can’t see.

With more cuts to local authority spending coming down the track, young people will be hit the hardest because in the world of council budgets, youth services are seen as a nice-to-have.

Why? Well, the harsh reality is that politicians are in the business of winning votes and the power that brings.

Kids don’t vote so politicians don’t care.

What needs to be done?

As citizens, we could stand by and just allow this to happen, or we can step up and do something about it.

Individual actions come in a variety of forms, from speaking up to asking those politicians who’ll be knocking on your door in this election year exactly what they are doing for young people outside of formal education.

But words can only achieve so much; we can’t begin to fix this without money. 

The Ask

We need to take a business approach and treat young people like an investment. What business could be more important than that?

So, my ask of all politicians is to commit to restore investment in safe places for young people to go, where there’s something inspiring for them to do alongside brilliant, trusted youth workers they can confide in. Somewhere they actually want and choose to go to.

Specifically, for government to allocate £1bn a year back into youth infrastructure over the next decade which philanthropy will match.

Crucially, this must be a long term, cross-party pledge – not a political football.

It’s amazing what can be achieved when no-one cares who takes the credit.

It’s a big ask because it means facing some harsh truths; not least that what we’re doing now isn’t working. It also means radically changing the way we prioritise and deploy government spending on young people. It will though need some courage and some leaps of faith.

For this to work, we must do things differently. I’d like to see a Youth Infrastructure Fund, run by experienced investors and entrepreneurs who know how to make things a success out there in the real world.

Match funding will be a concrete pillar of these plans for every pound the Government commits. 

Put it this way: Government can be 100% successful in this model for only 50% of the cost.

Whether that’s through young people achieving their potential, greater social cohesion, improved physical and mental health, higher levels of employability, reduced crime, less loneliness or, in hard cash terms, lower Government spending elsewhere because all these things have improved.

Of course, philanthropy and business have an important role to play too, beyond just money. Whether that’s offering apprenticeships to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, or allocating charitable spending to local youth projects, we need to make sure that we too are putting our money where our mouth is and not just looking to Government.

Backing young people doesn’t just give them a better future, it creates better futures and safer communities for us all.