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In recent years, we have seen many policy developments and funding commitments allocated towards the early years agenda in Scotland. Whilst this is definitely to be welcomed, it is concerning that no similar, long-term commitment has been made for the later stages of a young person’s ongoing development.

Young people do not stop developing or requiring support when they start at primary school. In fact, it is our young people that are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis and there is now a real danger of creating another lost generation in Scotland.

The latest statistics show that Scotland’s young people are indeed facing a jobs crisis. Up to 1 in 5 young people aged 18 – 25 are currently unemployed and for young men in particular, this figure is even higher at 1 in 4.

This is made all the more troubling when you consider that it is these same young people that should be being supported to help us build a diverse, dynamic and enterprising Scotland, one that emerges from the current economic crisis stronger and more able to respond to similar situations in the future and the demands of the 21st century job market.

In order to help make this a reality and to truly deliver for and support our young people, both local and national government must commit to providing long-term, sustainable funding for Scotland’s youth work sector.

Youth work is a vital component in developing a national infrastructure that provides wholly

positive opportunities for our young people. For young people, communities and wider Scottish society, it is the ultimate form of preventative spend.

The Scottish Government’s own evaluation into Community Learning Development (CLD) youth work activities in April 2010 shows a social return on investment of as much as £14 for every £1 spent on some types of youth work activity. This is supported by recent independent research into a voluntary youth work organisations peer mentoring scheme that shows a social ROI of up to £13 for every £1 invested.

Youth work is not just preventative in terms of spend, however. Both targeted and universal youth work services help build the skills, self confidence and sense of community cohesion required to ensure our young people reach their full potential.

Simply put, youth work is prevention. It is time that decision makers at every level in Scottish society took note of this.

Jim Sweeney Chief Executive YouthLink Scotland – the national agency for youth work

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