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Report reveals youth workers’ Brexit concerns

A majority of those questioned said they were unsure about the financial impact of Brexit on their sector.


Prime Minister Theresa May is attempting to negotiate a Brexit deal (Paul Faith/PA)

Prime Minister Theresa May is attempting to negotiate a Brexit deal (Paul Faith/PA)

Prime Minister Theresa May is attempting to negotiate a Brexit deal (Paul Faith/PA)

Half of Scotland’s youth workers have seen a negative impact on community relations in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote, a new study suggests.

Some 50% of those questioned said they had witnessed a variety of negative results following the EU referendum, including emboldened hate speech and intolerance on social media.

Young people feeling excluded from democracy, divided communities and a loss of public trust in information were some of the other consequences cited by respondents.

A majority of youth workers (54%) also said they were unsure of the financial impact of Brexit on their sector.

On the other hand, a smaller proportion (8% attending workshops and 14% responding to a survey) said that community relations had been positively impacted by the referendum.

Some of the positive impacts included young people being more aware of their rights and wanting more opportunities for engaging with democracy.

The report was jointly released on Thursday by the organisations YouthLink Scotland and Youth Scotland, who collaborated to explore the impact of Brexit on their field.

YouthLink Scotland chief executive Tim Frew said: “It is clear that as we approach the final deadline for Brexit, there is considerable unease across society about the impact of leaving the EU, and that includes Scotland’s youth work sector.

“We know that many Scottish young people have felt disenfranchised through the process of the EU referendum and in the events that have followed.

“At the very heart of youth work is the voice of young people, it is essential to ensure that young people can realise their rights, be able to participate fully in our democracy and have a voice in the decisions that may affect their future.”

The report, entitled Hear.EU, also found that youth workers typically did not feel informed about Brexit, with 18% saying they felt “very uninformed”.

Respondents were divided (at 42% each) between those who had and those who had not given youngsters information during the referendum and negotiation period.

Ian McLaughlan, chief executive of Youth Scotland, said: “Through this research it is clear that youth workers are seeing the impact which Brexit is having on many young people in their communities, with a lack of engagement in the process and lack of information leading to feelings of disempowerment.”

Dave Beck, lecturer in community development at the University of Glasgow, said: “Youth work has never been more needed than it is now.

“Brexit highlights a society which is polarised, politics which is reduced to slogans and sound bites and a citizenry which stands by bewildered and disconnected.

“Youth work is needed to help rebuild a vibrant, participatory democracy where there are spaces to think, challenge and hold all accountable for shaping our collective future.”

A total of 168 people working and volunteering in the field of youth work across Scotland were asked about their views in workshops and an online survey between December 2018 and January 2019.