It’s not often young people get to speak with a new minister just after they’ve been appointed and are looking for new ideas. It is a real opportunity to make sure future projects meet young people’s needs. Baroness Diana Barran MBE, a Conservative Peer, is now the new Minister for Civil Society (the Ministry which covers youth) and she visited The Station to talk to young people and youth workers on Friday morning. 

A New Youth Investment Fund

At the last Chancellor’s statement, a few weeks ago, Sajid Javid, announced a new Youth Investment Fund that would support the creation of new youth centres, refurbishment of the old and running costs. No doubt, this is largely in response to the growing awareness of knife crime, mental health, isolation and anti-social behaviour. UK Youth and other agencies, including Creative Youth Network, have been highlighting the role that youth work plays in both prevention and response to issues like these.       

It appears that the government have listened and whilst any funding will largely replace what has been lost through austerity it is welcome none the less. 

We are not sure when the full announcement will be made but we know it is soon and I’m sure the looming general election has played its part in focussing the minds of MPs and Ministers on the problems of the day.  

Young people’s voices have to be heard

Creative Youth Network believes that the most effective way of tackling societal issues is listening to those who are the most affected by these problems. So we’ve invited five young people from across our work in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to share their stories and have a conversation with the Minister Barran.

We heard about how youth clubs had given young people suffering from abuse a safe place to be, how staff support has helped a disabled young person find their voice. One young person started as a participant and is now volunteering at his youth club - helping to mentor others.  

All of the young people were powerful and articulate in highlighting the importance of long-term relationships with the staff – helping them on their journey through the difficulties they faced. They also highlighted how important open access youth work is – offering a place to have fun, meet friends and try new things that was often the gateway to them getting the support they needed later in their teenage years. 

Diana asked them about the importance of social media in finding out about what was on offer and there was a long discussion about the importance of really high-quality spaces. Interestingly the young people were adamant they would rather see more ‘functional’ spaces across their communities rather than a few ‘super-shiny’ places.  

Long-term relationships are key

The Minister came away with a clear view of the importance of youth work and, more importantly, the importance of long-term relationships and therefore long-term funding.  She acknowledged that the piecemeal funding of issues (e.g. a fund for knife crime, a fund for isolation or a fund for getting into work) was not helpful and that longer term funding to build relationships is a better investment for preventing all of these problems occurring in the first place.  

The announcement on the new fund will be made soon and it is a pleasure to know that young people from Bristol and South Glos may have helped shape government investment in their future.