Majority of youth work services unable to resume indoor support
More than half of council-run youth work services and 80 per cent of voluntary youth work projects have been unable to resume face-to-face work indoors due to a lack of available facilities.
Some services have had to meet vulnerable young people in parks, on school grounds or using tents as shelter to provide support, a survey from YouthLink Scotland has found.
Scottish Government guidance said indoor services could resume from 31 August, but access to buildings and facilities is still being restricted in many areas.
Three quarters of organisations said they had no access to school facilities, while 95 per cent said they could not use local leisure facilities.
YouthLink Scotland, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and mental health charity See Me have joined together to urge national and local leadership to help the sector overcome these barriers.
YouthLink CEO Tim Frew said: “We need to move forward and ensure that access to facilities for youth work increases.
“From our survey we can see that almost all youth organisations responsible for facilities have completed risk assessments. Detailed guidance for school facilities and for outdoor centres has been developed.
“For centres where youth work is the tenant and not the landlord, we need to understand what the barriers are to their re-opening.
“If the issue is guidance from the Scottish Government on the use of community centres, we know that this is in development and is needed urgently.
“If the issue is more about the cost then we need to ensure that extra funds are found, as we cannot allow for young people to be prevented from accessing youth work when they need it now more an ever.”
The sector is concerned vulnerable young people will be left without vital support heading into the winter months, as guidance is being interpreted differently in local areas.
Some organisations have been able to make use of public spaces such as cafes, but youth workers have expressed concern about the limited privacy such spaces offer.
Emma Kyles, a senior youth worker at the Jack Kane Community Centre in Edinburgh, said: “As the darkness of winter draws in, the delayed reactions from the City of Edinburgh Council over this time means that lack of access to appropriate and safe facilities such as ours threatens to leave young people and children without vital support and once again literally left out in the cold.
“These actions mean that young people and children of our community are being unfairly disadvantaged even further as we attempt to combat and recover from this devastating pandemic.”
Gina Wilson, head of strategy for the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, said: “The pandemic has highlighted and further entrenched existing inequalities and providing vital youth work services over the coming winter months and beyond must be a priority to ensure children and young people’s rights are protected and promoted.”