Better Tomorrows improves life chances of young Cumbrians

4th July 2023

A new initiative to encourage more people into youth work in Cumbria has been hailed as a resounding success and is already transforming lives.

Better Tomorrows was launched by David Beeby, Chair of Cumbria Community Foundation and a former High Sheriff of Cumbria, to address what he describes as a “huge gap” in youth work provision.

In the first year of the three-year programme, over 30 people have participated in the accredited training, 19 organisations have been funded, providing 26 new youth worker roles and nearly 4,000 hours of new youth work has been delivered. You can read the first year evaluation here.

Speaking at a Cumbria Community Foundation event to mark the first anniversary, David said: “I felt that young people had made sacrifices for the older generation in the first year of the Covid pandemic, in terms of their education and opportunities, and we needed to redress that.

“We had conversations about what was missing and came across compelling evidence that quality youth work makes a real difference to the outcomes for young people, yet funding for youth work has been cut dramatically.

“It has been a privilege to try and do something about that. I hope now that youth work is being recognised as a career and as an opportunity.”

Better Tomorrows is investing more than £1 million over three years to pay for accredited youth work training. Alongside the training, which is delivered in-person by Cumbria Youth Alliance, it also offers multi-year grants up to £75,000 to community organisations that set up or provide new youth work opportunities for local people.

More than 70 people attended the celebratory event at the University of Cumbria’s Learning Gateway in Carlisle, a mix of funders, funded organisations and youth workers who have undergone training.

Over 40 funders have contributed to the programme, including the Community Foundation, Francis C Scott Trust, Four Acre Trust, LLWR, many local businesses and the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, which is contributing £75,000.

L-R: David Beeby and Mike Johnson

Mike Johnson, Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said: “High-quality youth work has a crucial role to play in supporting young people to achieve their potential. They gain confidence and competence, develop self-assurance, and can establish high expectations and aspirations for themselves. This is why it is vital that we provide qualified youth workers across Cumbria.”

The most powerful moment came when Erin Beaty and AJ Fell, two young people who regularly attend Carlisle Youth Zone, explained how youth work has changed their lives for the better.

L-R: Erin Beaty and AJ Fell

AJ said: “Opportunities are coming left, right and centre for me now. I’m going to university to do music and that’s only because of the Youth Zone. I started music when a staff member there threw a guitar at me and said, ‘Learn that!’.”

Erin added: “I’ve made some of my closest friends through the Youth Zone. I couldn’t have met them anywhere else because we go to different schools.”

The organisations to have received support from Better Tomorrows include Euphoric Circus, a charity operating in Penrith, Appleby and Alston that engages with young people by training them in circus skills.

Development Officer Toni Spence said: “The funding has benefited us massively. It has formalised what we can offer in terms of training people in youth work and it has made the quality of what we deliver much higher.”

Another beneficiary is South Whitehaven Youth Partnership, which works with young people between the ages of eight and 18. Representative Jacq Carty said: “We’ve got three years of funding and, by the end of year one, we’ve been able to engage with an additional 107 young people as a result.”

Better Tomorrows is scalable, and it can make an even bigger difference with further funding. For more information, or to make a donation, click here or call 01900 825760.