Together member: Glasgow Youth Council
Governments must do all they can to make sure every child can enjoy their rights by creating systems and passing laws that promote and protect children’s rights. This includes placing children’s rights at the heart of budgetary processes.
“High quality youth work should be available to all Scotland’s young people.”
(‘Lead the Way’ manifesto, Scottish Youth Parliament, 2016)
Glasgow Youth Council (GYC) is the representative body of young people aged 12-25 in Glasgow. In 2016 GYC produced a manifesto after consultation with young people in Glasgow and most recently in February 2019, representatives of GYC travelled to Brussels as the UK delegation for the European Youth Seminar. GYC relies on Glasgow City Council funding for the bulk of its work. Young people from GYC expressed serious concerns when, in Glasgow City Council’s budget proposal for 2019-20, funding earmarked for GYC was listed as a ‘savings proposal’. This step was taken by the local authority with no prior consultation or engagement with children and young people or GYC members. Young people from GYC described feeling ‘alienated’ and left out of the decision-making process. They expressed their frustration and disappointment on social media. This public expression of young people’s views led to GYC councillors agreeing to hold discussions about the local authority’s proposal. Following these discussions between young people and decision-makers, funding for GYC was reinstated for the next three years.
There have been similar cases throughout Scotland in which decisions around the funding of youth work services have been made with little or no consultation with children and young people. The case of GYC shows the importance of taking a rights-based approach that involves children and young people in budgetary decisions from the outset.
“I joined the Glasgow Youth Council just under two years ago as a shy 15-year old who struggled to fit in. Now, as a result of being part of GYC I am a confident individual who has served on the executive board of the GYC and I am now running for the Scottish Youth Parliament, something I never would have seen myself doing had I not joined GYC. I was extremely disappointed by our city council’s possible decision to cut funding for the Youth Council as it is an invaluable resource for the young people of Glasgow. Without youth work as a whole, I would still be an insecure teenager who struggles to socialise with other people.”
(Ross, aged 17, member of Glasgow Youth Council)
Youth work – and the impact of cuts to youthwork services – impacts of a range of children’s human rights, including:
- Article 4, allocation of resources: children’s human rights must be at the forefront of all decision-making, including in relation to the allocation of resources.
- Article 12, right to participation: children’s views should be listened to and taken into account in all decisions that affect them.
- Article 13, right to information: children should be able access information in a way that is accessible.
- Article 31, right to culture, leisure and recreational life: children should be able to participate in freely in cultural and recreational activities, governments should make sure that all children have the opportunity to do so in an accessible way.
Youthwork – and in the case of GYC, youth politics – plays a vital role in supporting children and young people to have their voice heard more widely. It provides a way through which local authorities can work with children and young people to involve them in wider work within their community, for example in relation to local authority budgets, transport, planning and environmental decisions. Youthwork has also been shown to be of great value to local communities – spending on youth work has been estimated by YouthLink Scotland to give a return of £7 for every £1 of public money spent.
Recognising the importance of youthwork, Scottish Government has committed to developing a new National Youth Work Strategy from 2020 onwards. However, this needs to be matched with support and adequate resourcing for youthwork at a local level. As part of this, it is of vital importance that local authorities put steps in place to support children and young people’s involvement in local budget decisions. Whilst there have been positive developments across Scotland, more needs to be done.
Financial pressures and competing priorities always present challenges to local budgeting. Rights-based budgeting recognises these challenges whilst focusing on ensuring that available and existing resources are used in the best way possible in order to uphold children and young people’s rights. As Scotland move towards the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law, there will be more opportunities for children and young people to get involved in decision-making at a local level and work with local authorities to highlight the importance of adequately and sustainable resourced youthwork services.