The Unite union has urged the new government to prioritise youth services and the youth work profession by professionalising its status.
Unite national officer for community, youth and play workers Colenzo Thorpe-Jarret told CYP Now youth workers should have the same legal status as other children's services practitioners, such as teachers or social workers, who are unable to use their title unless they have achieved recognised qualifications.
He said the future government should also create a universal youth service protected in statute, and a national register of youth workers.
He warned that current policies were putting children and young people at risk, as "at the moment anyone can call themselves a youth worker without qualifications or training, even though there are qualifications in place".
Thorpe-Jarret suggested unqualified practitioners working with young people should be called "young people's assistants, youth work associates or youth work assistants".
"Whichever political party wins at the polls, it must commit to creating a statutory requirement for local authorities to provide youth services," he said.
"This must be properly funded and protected by dedicated ring-fenced funding."
Institute of Youth Work (IYW) chair Adam Muirhead said his organisation is currently consulting its members about the idea of having protected titles for youth workers.
"There are lots of reasons for and against it," he said.
"Some people feel it would be really supportive of the sector and professionalisation.
"All the people who pay huge amounts of money to go to university should come out with some protection for their title, and more security to gain employment as a youth worker.
"However, other people feel these things would limit the ability for grass-roots youth work to grow and for volunteers to be brought in.
Muir added that IYW is also discussing whether creating a voluntary register would be a good way to explore the implications of a mandatory register.
The organisation plans to publish a position paper by the end of the year setting out members' opinions.
Government figures show local authority spending has fallen from £1.2bn in 2010/11 to just £500m in 2015/16.
Anna Smee, chief executive of UK Youth has backed Unite's proposals.
"The provision of high quality services for young people play a vital role in the social fabric of our country, empowering the next generation to build bright futures and improving social cohesion," she said.
"It is vital that they receive the support and funding required to sustain this important work."