Scotland’s national agency for youth work, YouthLink Scotland have launched their Westminster Manifesto with a call to candidates to stand up for young people and their local youth work services.
Their manifesto calls for: Age discrimination to be removed from the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work; Votes at 16 must become a reality right across the UK for every election; In terms of lasting social capital, offer tax breaks for businesses that encourage and facilitate their staff to volunteer
All young people should have access to free wifi in their communities so the opportunities that come with our new digital era do not leave some of them behind and a right of access for all young people to high quality youth work and the protection of EU youth programme cash.
Jim Sweeney MBE, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, had this message for Westminster candidates standing. He said: “As politicians you seek a society where all young people have equality of opportunity. Youth work is very often the catalyst which gives young people the learning and skills which helps level the playing field between those who have and those who have not.
“Since the last Westminster election in 2015, we would have expected to see at least some movement on some of our key asks.
“Instead money is being poured into ‘quick fix’ programmes at the expense of building a sustainable youth work sector across the UK. The digital offer must be improved for our young people, many of whom cannot access wifi for free.
“We still have inequality within the national minimum wage and 16 and 17 year olds continue to be denied the vote at UK level.”
Mr Sweeney also issued a challenge to the next UK Prime Minister to protect current EU funding for youth programmes beyond 2018.
A key strand of current EU funding for the youth work sector is Erasmus+ youth funding. Between 2009 and 2016 Scotland received 2,193,700 Euro in funding for youth organisations.
He said: “We would like to see the Prime Minister make a commitment to the continuation of Erasmus+, a programme that already involves non EU members including Iceland and Norway.
“The youth work sector is already under intense pressure and any cutting of cash currently coming from the EU would hit those young people in disadvantaged communities the hardest.”