Blog 2 January 2024 By Ruth Marvel, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award

Reflecting on a year with the Back Youth Alliance

In a rapidly changing world, the importance of supporting and investing in young people cannot be overstated. This generation of young people face a perfect storm of challenges – the legacy of Covid, record levels of anxiety and mental ill-health, a cost-of-living and climate crisis, all against the backdrop of an increasingly digitised and atomised world. Now more than ever, it is vital that we support and empower our young people. And that’s where youth work comes in. 

I have had the privilege to chair the Back Youth Alliance for the past year – a coalition of 12 of the most dynamic and inspiring youth organisations in the UK. As a group, we leverage the collective power of our scale, influence and reach to advocate for youth work and enrichment, presenting a coherent vision and voice to decision-makers, with and for young people. It has been amazing to see the progress we can make when we work together, share our expertise and speak with one voice. 

The Back Youth Alliance’s collective vision is for a future in which young people feel safe, respected and heard. A future in which they can successfully navigate adolescence, developing the skills and capabilities needed to thrive in life and work. 

This work responds to the pressing need for investment in youth work and youth-focused initiatives. Youth work is not a luxury; it is a societal necessity. By investing in the development, education, and wellbeing of young people, we are investing in a more resilient, compassionate, and equitable future. 

The Back Youth Alliance’s Agenda for Change

Over the past year the Back Youth Alliance have worked together to put together our “Agenda for Change. This sets out the Alliance’s vision for investing in young people and leveraging the transformational power of youth work to help young people navigate the tricky transition into adulthood.  

To achieve this vision, were calling for a National Youth Offer, at the heart of a cross-governmental national youth strategy, that sets out the Government’s commitment to supporting and empowering young people. This must consist of a national strategy, policy framework and funding, including a refreshed statutory duty for youth work and the following offer to young people:  

  1. A universal youth work and enrichment offer, giving all young people regular access to positive activities, programmes and clubs, enrichment and non-formal learning activities. This is enabled by national guidance, cross-sector collaboration, and bursaries for young people from low-income households and/or with additional needs.
  2. A targeted youth development offer for the most marginalised and at-risk young people, consisting of access to personalised support from a named youth worker, advocacy and support to navigate statutory services, and a comprehensive package of accessible out of school and holiday activities.
  3. Youth voice and representation at all levels of policy and decision-making: opportunities for young people and youth-led organisations to meaningfully participate in the design and delivery of policy and services that impact young people, including through policy networks, an active and influential British Youth Parliament, and local youth partnerships.

Being a teenager is tough. The task of adolescence is to grow away from your parents and become a person in your own right – with your own views, values, accomplishments and the skills and capabilities to live independently.  

As we witness the challenges faced by young people today, we cannot afford to be passive observers. Investment in youth work is vital to ensuring that no young person is left behind, regardless of their background or circumstances. By fostering resilience, creativity, and a sense of community, youth work is a catalyst for positive change on a societal scale, bolstering a generation that is not only equipped to weather storms but one that can also lead us toward brighter horizons. 

The Back Youth Alliance will be launching this exciting agenda in early 2024 and we would very much value your support. 

And finally…

As I hand over the Back Youth Alliance Chair, I am proud of what we have achieved this year. I look forward to working with Back Youth Alliance colleagues in 2024 to continue to advocate for youth work, working with decision makers, and using our collective voice to influence the wider public debate and make sure young people are heard in the run-up to the next General Election.  

Finally, I want to thank my fellow Back Youth Alliance CEOs and all the staff and young people who have supported the work of the Alliance this year. I would also like to thank the Chair, Secretariat and members of the National Youth Advisory Board and the Ministers and officials at DCMS and the Department for Education with whom we have collaborated closely this year. 

 – Ruth Marvel, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

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