Covid: Young people fear for the future with many youth charities 'running on empty' due to lack of support

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

Young people have told ITV News of their fears about the future, with one in four youth charities in desperate need of financial support before Christmas or they will not be able to meet their running costs.

The National Youth Agency (NYA), the national body for youth work in England, is calling on the government to provide help, saying youth services "simply do not have the capacity or enough funding to meet young people’s vastly increased needs".

The NYA has published a report, given exclusively to ITV News, saying one in four youth charities will not be able to meet their running costs, in the build up to Christmas , and three in four of those charities expect to have used their reserves in that time.

One in three youth charities will not be able to meet costs by March, which the NYA says will lead to a major round of redundancies being made in the next three months.

The NYA said "some youth charities won’t survive the winter and young people will miss out on vital youth services" if more support is not provided.

Eve Phelan, 15, who attends Vibe Youth Centre in Knowsley to escape the pressures of life at home, told ITV News she "wouldn't know what to do" if she didn't have the support of the youth centre.

Asked why she attends, she said: "To get away from problems at home - my mum's mental health was really bad, this was like a getaway place.

"I've got support workers and new people that I've met that I can speak to... if I didn't I wouldn't know what to do."

Sadie Ellis, 13, who looks after her blind mother at home, said she attends the youth centre because she can "meet new friends and can be myself instead of just helping my mum".

She said looking after her mum is "hard" because she's got to help her "do things other kids don't have to do".

With youth charities forced to close or go online throughout the first lockdown, and again in the second, the NYA says delayed funding "risks a lost year for young people, disproportionately impacted by Covid-19".

Youth worker Christine McGowan, project lead at the Vibe Youth Centre project, said: "Lots of [the young people] look after parents, relatives, siblings, some of them have dealings with substance misuse - something like that - that they are coping with at home.

"This is sort of like a respite for them."

The youth centre is part funded by its local council and part funded through charity fundraising, which has all but disappeared during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Council funding ends in March and nothing more has been secured beyond that point.

The NYA acknowledged some financial support has been provided for youth charities but says the a £500 million youth investment fund promised by the government, due to start from April 2020, has still not been spent.

A government spokesperson said: "We have provided more than £60 million to children’s and youth organisations and an unprecedented multi-billion pound package of support has helped charities more widely.

"We continue to work closely with the sector to direct help where it is needed and understand how we can support them further."

One young person who attends the Proud Trust, a youth charity dedicated to LGBTQ+ people, said it's "scary" to think of life without the group's support.

Aiysha Aziz said: "One group I go to is specifically for LGBT people of colour, the thought of not having that safe space, is yeah, scary."

Finn Collett said the group has "massively helped" his mental health, adding: "I'm not entirely sure I'd have made it through the year without having this much help."

Childrens' Commissioner Anne Longfield said she is "worried" about the viability of Britain's youth services.

"What we don't want to see is the very services young people rely on and want to have there, be the ones that dwindle away over this period."

She added: "The consequences to kids would be devastating."