Youth Leader invites Prime Minister to Bolton project which empowers young people

Video report by Granada Reports journalist Claire Hannah

The leader of a youth project set up in Bolton to empower young people has invited Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to the centre to see why youth funding is so important.

Daniel Sukula initially started Be The Change by delivering weekly football sessions, but its work has now expanded to include a range of sports and arts programmes, knife crime prevention workshops and mentoring activity.

It is based near Bolton town centre and works with young people aged between 11 and 25.

Daniel said: "The area where the project is based right now is one of the most deprived areas in Bolton and in the UK.

"We get kids that come here who are anxious and stressed, and we can see it."

The Be The Change Youth Project is open three nights a week Credit: ITV news

The centre is open three nights a week and is free for young people to attend.

In addition there are a number of so called 'Young Leaders', whose ages range from 13 to 18, who speak to the young people who attend to find out what they are struggling with and what would help them.

One of their meetings led to the group getting funding from the charity UK Youth for a three day trip to The Anderton Centre, a water sports facility in Chorley.

Daniel Sukula said: "We were able to take 33 kids away from this area, for two nights and they got involved in a lot of activities, which they would not be able to access usually.

"A lot of the kids we took had never been on a residential trip before and this was thanks to the funding from UK Youth."

The young people on a trip to The Anderton Centre near Rivington Credit: Daniel Sukula

Daniel also said he thinks the government should be doing more: "The youth sector has been impacted massively over the years especially with the covid pandemic and now the cost of living crisis.

"We've seen a lot of youth centres close and without funding it's hard to keep these kind of places open.

"I'm sure our young people would be very happy to see the Prime Minister and show him why funding for young people is so important."

Be the Change aims to empower young people in Bolton and give them opportunities they wouldn't usually have Credit: ITV news

This comes on the backdrop of a study which shows nearly two-thirds of young people in the North West say the cost of living crisis is having a negative impact on their mental health.

UK Youth spoke to young people (16-25 year olds) and parents.

Its findings include:

  • Four in five young people (80%) are concerned about the impact of the cost of living crisis on their ability to get a secure job now and in the future  

  • Almost half of young people (47%) say it is having an impact on their ability to heat their homes, while one in five (21%) say it’s impacting their access to regular meals  

  • Most parents (85%) are concerned that the cost of living crisis will impact their child’s future

  • Over a third (35%) say they are more lonely as they reduce their social life to save money

  • A majority (65%) believing the government is not providing enough support

  • Three-quarters (74%) believing better or increased access to youth work would help  

A separate study from UK Youth found two thirds of youth organisations are seeing increased demand for services from young people, with a similar figure (67%) facing increased operating costs, at the same time as more than half are seeing a decrease in funding (51%).

The charity said: "Those threats come off the back of a decade of cuts to the sector, with local authorities spending 77% less on youth services, which in real terms is a £1bn decrease, which has led to the closure of hundreds of youth clubs and the loss of thousands of highly skilled youth work jobs.  

"This is despite UK Youth’s own Untapped report which reveals that investment in youth work saves the government as much as £3.2bn annually."

The Government has pledged more funding for youth services over the next two years Credit: ITV news

In response the Government pledged extra funding for youth services over the next few years.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport said: "In March 2023, the government announced the first 43 youth centres set to receive a slice of over £90 million to build or renovate facilities as part of life-changing Youth Investment Fund, totalling over £300 million.

"The Youth Investment Fund will pave the way for up to 300 youth facilities to be built or refurbished over the next two years in areas where need is high and existing youth provision is low across the country, including in the North West.

"Facilities set to benefit include community youth spaces and youth centres large and small, aiming to help 45,000 more young people access regular, positive activities every year.

"This will support their wellbeing, give them opportunities to develop vital skills for life and empower them to be active members of their local community.

"This is in addition to £16.9 million of funding being approved to expand access to uniformed youth groups, such as The Scouts and Girlguiding, aiming to create 20,000 new places for young people aged between 10-18 across the country.

"In March, the government also announced it will support one million hours of youth services over the coming two years, through an initial £11 million investment, enabling the equivalent of 200 youth clubs to open their doors for an extra night a week."  

Want more on the issues affecting the North? Our podcast, From the North answers the questions that matter to our region.