Youth Work Sector Faces Staffing Crisis

Scotland’s national youth agency has condemned the “piecemeal attitude” towards funding of the youth work sector claiming it results in chronically low staff pay and morale. In a hard-hitting submission to ministers, YouthLink Scotland, which represents public and voluntary sector organisations working with young people, said in many cases organisations “lived from hand to mouth”.

It claimed they were constantly asked to reinvent tried and tested methods to fit into ever changing funding needs. This lack of sustainability, it alleged, has a negative affect on staff morale, and creates real difficulties for recruiting and retaining staff. This means that youth groups are working with a very small pool of experienced staff.

“Short term and inconsistent funding is no basis on which to build a strong and effective youth work service” the agency said. It said the sector in Scotland had for too long been grossly under-funded in almost every area, resulting in chronically low staff pay.

“We are lucky in Scotland that so many people have been prepared to forgo anything like a proper salary or pension entitlement to take up positions in youth work.  However if the sector is to expand its capacity and cease to be the ‘Cinderella’ sector in terms of engagement with young people we must pay our youth worker practitioners more.”

The agency’s criticism came in response to a Scottish Executive consultation paper on the creation of a national youth work strategy. Its submission was among 3,000 received by the executive, 2000 of them from young people and the country’s network of youth organisations.