Youth organisation mergers vital in face of dwindling budgets, DfE official warns

By Neil Puffett, Friday 30 November 2012

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Voluntary and community youth organisations must contemplate merging in the face of funding cuts in order to sustain services, a senior civil servant has said.

Young people at a youth club

UK Youth is working more closely with Ambition. Image: Phil Adams

Gillian Hillier, deputy director of the young people's division at the Department for Education (DfE), told delegates at a joint conference staged by UK Youth, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) and Leap, that there is a growing necessity for organisations to work together.

She warned that falling budgets mean it will not be possible for all youth charities to plough a lone furrow, making collaboration vital.

“Moving forward, clearly the challenge is to know what we can do to do more with less,” she said.

“We know there will be less money and staffing levels will be reduced. My challenge to you is to work together, pool resources and pool expertise.

“Consider mergers between organisations where appropriate and, hopefully, we will be able to build a secure and flexible approach to the future.”

Mergers within the sector are already taking place. In January last year, two of the UK's leading youth organisations – The Prince's Trust and Fairbridge – joined forces to form one organisation.

The organisations brought together their administrative functions so resources could be directed to frontline programme delivery.

More recently, in September this year, Kent Youth and Kent Council for Voluntary Youth Services agreed to work together under the new name Young Kent, ahead of an official merger.

Dominic Cotton, director of communications at UK Youth, said youth organisations should look to work more closely with competitors where it makes sense, pointing to the fact that his organisation is increasingly linking up with youth club umbrella organisation Ambition.

“There are 34,000 charities in England and Wales whose mission is to support children and young people,” he said. “If it means young people continue to get support, it is the right thing to do.”

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