There is little or no co-ordinated provision in many rural areas to tackle inequalities and put young people at the heart of Covid-recovery. A new report, Overlooked: young people and rural youth services, makes clear there are vast gaps in local youth services. Hardest hit are the 2.2 million young people living in predominantly rural areas, living in villages, towns and coastal areas. They are consistently overlooked and, so far, missing from the government’s levelling up agenda.
Leigh Middleton, NYA’s CEO said,
“Young people spend 85% of their waking hours each year outside of the school-day. It is imperative that they can access safe places to have fun, meet friends and learn new skills, with a trained and trusted adult who knows what is needed. Yet there is little or no youth provision in many rural areas. Young people living in rural areas are all too often overlooked, leaving them vulnerable to isolation, loneliness and poor mental health, Bold investment is required for a rural action plan designed with young people, to build and bolster local youth services, and mobilise youth workers and volunteers across rural communities. Without such investment to build back better, 2.25 million young people will be left behind.”
The Overlooked report provides the following recommendations to improve rural youth work provision:
- A Rural Action Plan for youth services co-designed with young people
- Comprehensive map of youth services and out of school activities in rural areas (Census)
- More community transport options needed, including capital funding for mini-buses, mobile youth services and digital technology
- Access to free data to bridge the digital divide.
- Unlock and release funding, invest in community assets (England’s 10,000 village halls are at the heart of rural communities, yet the year up to April 2020 over 1/3 of village halls had reduced their youth work offer)
- Strengthen statutory guidance for local authorities and funding to secure a baseline of youth provision
- Include an annual plan with clear statements regarding who is setting out to achieve what aims, secured by the local authority and working through local partnerships.