Disadvantaged areas fail to level out funding due to differences in spending on youth work, report finds

Deprived areas lack funding to support young people under the government’s race-to-the-top scheme due to local differences in how they calculate their spending.

The findings emerged in a report on the state of youth work in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

It revealed that six of the most deprived council areas in England are in the region.

But not all qualified for funding via the £368million Youth Investment Fund due to local variations in how youth work expenditure is calculated.

Instead, the government is targeting ‘pockets of deprivation’ involving council wards in ‘areas of greatest wealth’, according to the report by the region’s Youth Work Unit (YWU) and academics from the University of Hull.

Areas underfunded in the region include Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale, York and most of North Yorkshire.

The report details how data on spending on youth work is used by the government to allocate funds. These are collected through information sent annually to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

Using this method, it is “difficult to understand how the criteria for spending on youth work are interpreted by individual local authorities”, according to the report. While some councils include it in all spending on children and young people, others provide data focused only on youth work, according to the report.

“Therefore, it may distort a regional assessment and baseline of actual youth work activity,” the report adds.

The lack of upgrading funding is part of the “historic disinvestment in youth work” in the region that is preventing young people from accessing aid, according to YWU administrators interviewed by researchers.

They call on the government for “greater collaboration between policy areas” across England to support youth work and decisions around the allocation of funds. This includes better “engagement” with directors of children’s services, regional mayors and heads of children’s services in other local authorities, they say.

The current system of funding and policies for youth work is leading to an “exodus of professional and qualified personnel from youth work”, warn YWU administrators.

The report stresses the need to invest in the training and development of the youth workforce “to build capacity and reverse the gradual reduction of professionally qualified youth workers”.

However, he warns that there is currently “no local, regional or national picture of what constitutes the youth workforce, their qualifications, where they are, what they do, how which it is financed and supported”.

Maria D. Ervin