Our National Youth Work Strategy has changed lives - let's continue to build a brighter future for young people

YouthLink Scotland CEO Tim Frew looks back on some of the major achievements of the previous national youth work strategy, and looks forward to a brighter future for young people in Scotland as we continue to build a strategy for the next five years.

Read the National Youth Work Strategy 2014-19 progress report.

In the current challenging climate, as the world faces a global pandemic and considers how best to address the challenges of the future, it is very tempting to forget everything that has gone before. There have been many blogs and articles about how the previous playbook for public policymakers, organisations and individuals does not prepare us for dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on our lives.

While all of this is undoubtedly true, it is important to pause, consider and learn from what we have achieved together as a youth work sector. Scotland’s National Youth Work Strategy and the collaborative co-production approach of partners including Scottish Government, Education Scotland, YouthLink Scotland, local government, the voluntary sector and young people, attracted interest from policymakers and researchers across the world.

In setting out five key ambitions, the youth work sector with partners across the length and breadth of Scotland - supported thousands of young people to fulfil their full potential. For many young people, and especially those facing the challenge of poverty and inequality, youth work has changed lives. It's therefore important to stop, reflect and celebrate on youth workers achievements.

We now have a stronger evidence base that youth work enhances the mental health and wellbeing of young people; enables young people to build skills and attributes for life and work; supports young people to attain and achieve through non-formal learning; promotes prevention, safer communities and resilience; encourages volunteering and social action; realises and recognises young people’s rights and participation; and promotes equality, diversity, and accessibility.

The development of Scottish Youth Work Outcomes and an improving research base, thanks to partners such as the Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group, confirms that we are making a real and significant difference in the lives of young people.

The role of youth work as a driving force behind the Year of Young People in 2018 has been one of many highlights over the last five years. Young people’s expectations have been raised, and as the UNCRC comes into Scots Law, youth work will have a crucial role to play in order to ensure young people’s rights are recognised and realised.

Part of that recognition is being acutely aware that there are significant challenges facing young people with rising social, economic and health inequalities. The youth work sector, which has so much to offer in tackling inequality, has struggled to prevent cuts to vital services in the current fiscal climate. We now anticipate growing demand and expectation on the sector to match the needs of Scotland’s young people as we seek to move towards a ‘new normal'. It is essential, therefore, that we continue to invest in youth work through a new National Youth Work Strategy and we look forward to co-producing a new strategy with key stakeholders in 2020.

I commend the National Youth Work Strategy 2014-2019 progress report and encourage you to not only reflect back on some of what has been achieved, but also imagine what the future might look like for young people if we can take some of the best practice and scale up to match young people’s aspirations.

Tim Frew
Chief Executive, YouthLink Scotland
Co-Chair of the NYWS Stakeholder Reference Group.

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