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Building youth sector partnerships for the future

As we move out of lockdown and start to rebuild services for young people, we face unprecedented challenges.

First, it is full of organisations struggling to survive, whether they are from the public or voluntary sector, independent consultants, small businesses and passionate individuals all working to support young people.  Some focus on local neighbourhoods, others are city or county-wide; some are franchises of national bodies and there are infrastructure and research organisations too. Many do not know if they will be in existence a year from now, and Covid-19 has made the uncertainty worse.

Second, there is no pattern to how services for young people are delivered across England.  The role of the local authority as shaper of priorities and funder of services has continued to change.  Neighbouring local authorities often have completely different levels of investment and structures in place.  A few are still relatively well funded but across the road there might be nothing at all.

A third feature of our landscape is that the physical and human resources essential for our work are in desperate need of support.  The number of trained youth workers has diminished, and it is increasingly difficult to recruit people with the right skills and experience.  Covid has been exhausting for those on the front line.  Alongside this, the quality of building stock has declined – many community centres and youth clubs have not had budgets for proper maintenance and renewal.

In Coventry we are tackling these challenges.  We do not have all the answers, but we know that partnerships are key to the survival of youth services for young people.

With the support of the local authority, The Coventry Youth Partnership (CYP) was established in 2017Ten core organisations working with young people in the city came together to co-ordinate and improve the delivery of services for young people.

The Positive Youth Foundation has played a leading role in securing the resources to bring this work together. We secured short-term funding to strengthen training for CYP members, to create regular discussions and planning between organisations, and to develop the quality of what we deliver together, for example by collecting good data and piloting new ways of measuring our impact.  We have co-ordinated the allocation of funds for small grants to support post-Covid lockdown, which has gone some way to ensure that provision is available for young people across the city at this critical time.

Working together in this way is not without its challenges and with limited funds there are always difficult decisions to be made about our priorities.  Nonetheless, organisations are benefiting from this collective and mutual support across the city and our hope is that it will grow and create a strong foundation for future investment in our young people.

You can find more about our work and our review at www.coventryyouthpartnership.org.uk