Youth charities expect to reduce services due to Covid-19

15 Apr 2020 News

There is likely to be a significant reduction in service provision to young people due to the coronavirus pandemic, research by UK Youth has found.

The Impact of Covid-19 on Young People and the Youth Sector report was published recently and finds that 88% of respondents to a survey expect to reduce service provision. 

Nearly a third expect to make staff redundant and 17% said permanent closure is likely. 

A survey was carried out between 20-27 March 2020. There were 252 respondents, representing 235 organisations, including network, membership and infrastructure organisations that further represent another 1,848 organisations.

Between them organisations who responded reported engaging at least 608,700 young people in the last year.

Most respondents, 88%, indicated they are likely or very likely to reduce service provision to young people. 64% of respondents said that they were likely to lose sources of funding. 

Nearly three-quarters, 72%, said their organisation needs access to emergency funds to support in order to continue to support young people during and after the pandemic.

‘Severe reductions in funding have put the youth sector in an extremely precarious state’

The current funding crisis comes after a decade of reduced funding for many youth charities. 

Ndidi Okezie, chief executive of UK Youth, opened the report stating:  “Over the past decade the youth sector has been placed under immense pressure as it responds to increasingly pervasive issues that have threatened the social and personal development of the UK’s young people. Increasing social demands, coupled with severe reductions in funding, have put the youth sector in an extremely precarious state.

“It is against this backdrop that the risks from the Covid-19 pandemic are emerging. Covid-19 has caused a global pandemic and the biggest public health crisis that we have experienced since WW2. 

“It will have a long-lasting impact on society at large, from the economy to employment, to the way we interact. Organisations supporting the most vulnerable young people and communities are determined to do everything it takes to maintain high quality services in local communities.”

Permanent closure and possible redundancies 

The report also found that some organisations providing youth services were going to see redundancies.

Of those who responded to the survey, 31% said that staff redundancies were likely and 17% said permanent closure was likely.

The report finds permanent closures will hit small and micro organisations hardest. 22% of respondents from small and 21% from micro organisations said that permanent closures were likely, followed by 17% from medium organisations and 11% from large organisations.

Some 71% of respondents said that they were likely to reduce staff hours. This percentage could be higher following lockdown measures announced 23rd March 2020.

Adapting youth services online 

The report also highlights ways in which the youth sector was adapting to providing services online.

Most respondents, 86%, indicated that they were engaging young people virtually or were in the planning stages to do so, where possible. For example, respondents described taking steps to move service provision such as activities online, engage with young people using social media platforms and by phone.

A spokesperson for Mermaids charity said in the report: “We are so worried for our young people. They are already a very marginalised and isolated group and now that has intensified greatly. Many exist in unhappy homes with little chance for escape or support. 

“With the whole nation now being told to stay at home these young people are left trapped with the people they are desperate to escape from and even less able to be who they are.”

Almost half of respondents said that between 75% and 100% of their young people would be able to engage in youth services digitally, based on current knowledge. 

Children's Society: 'Many disadvantaged children are at increased risk'

The Children's Society warned that the effects of Covid-19 will mean many young people are at increased risk, and its chief executive has said that it expects to lose around £1m a month.

Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society, said: “The closure of our charity shops and cancellations of fundraising events like the London Marathon have had a devastating impact and mean we are losing around £1m a month.

“At the same time, many disadvantaged children are at increased risk, be it of falling prey to horrific sexual and criminal exploitation or suffering mental health problems.

“Yet they are cut off from vital support networks like school and youth clubs, and some are trapped in dangerous situations at home.

“While we will be using the government’s furlough scheme for our shop staff, vulnerable children need the help of our frontline practitioners now more than ever.

“That’s why we have launched an emergency fundraising appeal. It’s also why, despite welcoming the government’s announcement of support for charities, we are calling on ministers to do more – including by allowing staff to continue to volunteer if they are furloughed.”

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