Blog: Youth Investment Fund – welcome cash but not for all

16 Sep 2016

The Prime Minister has unveiled a significant package of support for young people this week. The Youth Investment Fund is worth £40m and is accompanied by a further £40m to social action organisation Step up to Serve to support young people volunteering in the community.

The announcement is part of Theresa May’s drive for meritocracy;

“I want Britain to be the great meritocracy of the world and a fundamental part of this is ensuring all young people get the best possible start in life.”

This is a significant investment which is as welcome as it is unexpected. After the well-publicised announcements on expanding the NCS it seemed like that was the sum total of the Government’s support for young people. This announcement draws a line (perhaps a dotted line) between Theresa May and David Cameron. (Her vision of ‘meritocracy’ is also a marker between her own upbringing and her predecessor’s more privileged background.)

After shelving Cameron’s Life Chances strategy, it’s good to see the theme has not also been abandoned. It’s certainly needed. Yet it’s confusing that the £40m Youth Investment Fund is limited to particular local authorities. Yes, focusing the funds is likely to have greater impact. But the list of local authorities is not evenly spread at all.  Some whole counties like Suffolk and Norfolk, others specific boroughs.

The list does not reflect either the Government’s own criteria for disadvantage which it says is the priority for the programme (Indeces of Multiple Deprivation) or the Social Mobility Commission’s ‘cold spots’, areas which have been identified as lacking the necessary opportunities and infrastructure for young people to fulfill their potential. The commission promotes and monitors social mobility – the essence of helping young people get the best start in life. Why not focus on areas already identified as a priority?

Notable by their absence from the list of applicable local authorities is the entire East Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, Cornwall, Dorset, Devon and Greater Manchester. Instead boroughs that appear on the SMC’s hotspots list of best performing local authorities for social mobility are on the Youth Investment Fund list including Redbridge (3rd), Tower Hamlets (4th) and Hackney (6th).

The cash is welcome, but those youth organisations working in the most deprived areas of the country will surely be puzzled about the Youth Investment Fund’s priorities.

Social mobility, how youth work helps young people to brighter futures, is the theme for this year’s Youth Work Week, 7-13 Nov. Find out more.

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