YOUTH work has been valued at around £656 million to the Scottish economy, with a return of £7 for every £1 of public cash spent on boosting the self-esteem and confidence of young people.

These latest figures were published in a report commissioned by national youth work agency YouthLink Scotland, which also revealed details of a You Gov poll of 450,000 adults in Scotland who said youth work had been very important in achieving their life goals.

The findings will be announced at a major conference in Edinburgh today hosted by Education Secretary Angela Constance, aimed at bringing key business, public sector and education figures together for the first time to highlight and celebrate the contribution youth work makes to society and individuals.

Constance said: “This is excellent research, which shows more clearly than ever the immense value of Scotland’s youth work sector to our economy. Every penny spent is well invested, as this research shows.

“Youth work builds the self-esteem and confidence of young people, provides space for personal development, and prepares young people for future opportunities.

“We are proud to invest in youth work programmes, which are a valuable complement to the educational system in allowing all of our young people to reach their potential. It was great to hear in Parliament last week that the Awards Network, established in 2008, is going from strength to strength.

“Through our funding for youth work and community learning and development, with schemes such as the Cashback for Communities programme, administered by YouthLink Scotland, we have invested tens of millions of pounds in projects and facilities for young people and the communities that they live in. Our youth work strategy sets out our vision for working with all organisations to build on what is an already vibrant sector.”

YouthLink Scotland CEO Jim Sweeney said: “We believe that universal youth work, available to all, provides the greatest opportunity in terms of preventative spending, as it can reduce the need for higher-cost targeted interventions later on in a young adult’s life.

“Youth work does change lives but it is crucial that we broaden the understanding and support for what this sector delivers for our young people.”