Youth charities issue low reserves and surging demand warning

Youth Charities are warning that waiting lists for their support are increasing as they battle to help young people amid long term funding cuts.

More than a third say they only have enough reserves to allow them to operate as normal for less than six months.

A quarter only have enough reserves for between six to 12 months of normal operation, while only one in five have reserves for more than a year of delivering support to young people.

One in ten are unsure how long they will be able to operate with their current level of reserves.

The warning comes as youth charities reveal they are coping with excess demand for support from young people in need of mental health support and help finding work and training amid the cost-of-living crisis.

A fifth say they have a waiting list of up to three months and are “struggling to meet demand”, according to the latest figures from the National Youth Sector Census, which is managed by the National Youth Agency.

A further eight percent have a waiting list of between three and six months.

The census is based on data received from almost 1,000 youth work organisations between March 2022 and April 2023. Of those responding the majority (754) are voluntary and community sector workers.

Amid funding cuts to council run youth services over the last decade the charity sector is now delivering “the lion’s share of provision”, said the NYA.

This is primarily through running weekly youth clubs as well as targeted local activities offering physical and mental health support, employment and training help and activities to combat violence and crime.

More than four in five youth organisations are providing targeted mental health support, reflecting growing demand for emotional and wellbeing services post Covid pandemic.

Latest official data shows that 18 per cent of children aged 7 to 16 have a probably mental health disorder.

Funding cuts

This demand comes amid dramatic cuts to youth service provision since the Conservative Party has been in government, first as part of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Analysis by the YMCA in 2021 revealed that youth services have suffered a £1.1bn loss over the previous ten years, due to a real term drop of 74% in investment over this period.

“This snapshot report reinforces what we already know from our network – that the voluntary and community sector is carrying the can, delivering services with and for local authorities, but often they are operating within the context of an uncertain future, unable to plan from one year to the next,” said NYA head of knowledge Alex Stutz.

“But we need an even more accurate a picture of youth work. It’s imperative that all those working with young people complete the Census, including those local authorities who weren’t included this time around, as well as youth workers funded by allied sectors, and small grassroots organisations, so we have the most accurate dataset to help inform commissioning and funding decisions.”

Of the 920 youth work organisations analysed in NYA data, cut of data, 57% are operating in the most deprived postcodes.

"Those working in the most deprived areas have higher expenditure and predicted expenditure that those in the least deprived areas," the charity added.

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