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The Youth Investment Fund Phase 2 explained

26 Jul 2023

Derek Gee

Derek Gee


March saw £90m awarded to 43 youth services across England as part of the Youth Investment Fund (YIF) Phase 2 first allocation, which aims to change the lives of young people now and in the future through the creation of better facilities and opportunities. Following our appointment to the circa £300m Fusion21 Youth Investment Fund framework, director, Derek Gee, explains what the YIF is, how organisations can access the pot, what the challenges are to making the most of this offer, and why we should all be optimistic about the outcomes.

The YIF is more than £300 million of capital and revenue grants, funded by the UK government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). Phase 2 of this initiative is being delivered by Social Investment Business, in partnership with the National Youth Agency (NYA), Key Fund and Resonance.

The fund has been devised to create, expand and improve local youth facilities and their services in the ‘out of school’ youth sector. This aims to drive positive outcomes for young people, including improved mental and physical wellbeing, and skills for life and work.

The fund will not only help the creation of new buildings and facilities. It will also assist refurbishment and renovation projects, which will be achieved through two grant streams, refurbishment allocations of up to £150k and capital grants of more than £150k. For those projects worth more than £150k that do not already have planning permission, it is important to note that due to concerns regarding viability to complete during the life of the fund, they will be ineligible for funding under the YIF.

The c. £300m phase aims to deliver grants for up to 300 facilities that represent positive value for money, are environmentally sustainable, and enable positive activities for young people aged 11 to 18 – or up to 25 years for young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Accessing the Youth Investment Fund

To access this funding, applications must come from registered charities, non-profit organisations, local authorities or school clubs. To this end, education facilities will only be eligible if they are able to provide space that can be independently accessed outside of school hours. Making sure that projects are fully accessible for community use is central. The fund is focused entirely on supporting good quality, well organised and future-viable youth activities.

The DCMS developed a meticulous methodology for underpinning the selection of areas, with the overall intention to level up areas where youth need is high and provision is low – creating a level playing field for young people to have equal access to youth services, trusted youth workers, and dedicated youth facilities that deliver positive outcomes.

Investigations reveal that the greatest level of need is in the North East and North West, which falls in line with levelling up intentions more generally. However, this is not a strict rule, with pockets of deprivation across the country also being considered in the area selection process.

Fusion21 has been selected as the procurement partner for Social Investment Business and has named 25 contractors and consultants on its framework, accessible to funding recipients. We were successful in our application and have been selected to deliver multi-disciplinary consultancy services, ranking highest in framework lot four for consultants.

The evidence is already showing that the YIF has been very popular and heavily oversubscribed, with expression of interest (EOI) declarations expected to continue even after applications have closed. The main grant stream for requests more than £150k closes at midnight Thursday 1 June 2023, so now is the time for organisations to kickstart their programme ahead of the deadline for spending funds at the end of March 2025.

Challenges for Youth Investment Fund beneficiaries

Some of the organisations that can benefit from the YIF will not have direct access to the specialist support necessary to quickly develop their proposals into viable, buildable projects, so it’s the responsibility of businesses like ourselves to support them through this process. Many organisations will never have used frameworks, so will need help to navigate through the intricacies of procurement mechanisms.

We are experts in this area and can advise clients from start to finish to achieve the best outcomes for their communities. Our advice to ensure procurement doesn’t become an obstacle is to push for early engagement, bringing ourselves close to funded organisations as early on in the process as possible.

The YIF is not only bringing forward new buildings, but also bringing old and neglected buildings back into commission – demonstrating the importance of regeneration to the UK government. While this should be celebrated, it will be interesting to see how successful applicants manage the operational cost once the fund has supported with the initial work. With this in mind, we believe it’s vital that designs need to minimise operational costs, which will help to make sure a building’s standard can be maintained and management is made easier.

Following YIF Phase 1, which saw £12m made available during an application window in 2022, an evaluation report was created to inform Phase 2. The vast majority of applicants were charitable organisations, which means that some of the other organisations that meet the eligibility criteria could stand to benefit more during Phase 2. However, most beneficiaries found the application process easy and reasonable for the size of grant, comparing it favourably to other funds, meaning there are positives to take from Phase 1.

Making the most of Youth Investment Fund Phase 2

The YIF is an important allocation of government money and can be used in creative ways to ensure its impact is felt more widely within communities. For example, thorough examination of building user groups will help create a design that caters for various needs. While youth groups will be the priority during large parts of the week, there is no reason that other groups can’t use the space when it would otherwise be empty. This will in turn prove a better return on investment, generate more social value and help validate upfront expenditure.

Many of the youth centres will need to be suitable for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), which are few and far between in some areas across the country, meaning there is potential for real, tangible social value.

Multiple users will mean some design challenges, but not as many as you would think. The main consideration is that it would make storage and security of equipment more prevalent, but we think that this should be looked at as an exciting and interesting architectural challenge. The key youth centre design principles should always be ensured first, some of which include accessibility, flexibility, biophilia, acoustics and connectivity with external space. These come together to create fulfilling and nurturing spaces for impressionable young people.

We also want organisations to remember the impact that well-designed buildings and outdoor space provision has on communities. Youth centres can become spaces that young people want to be in, and places that the wider community want to have. There is an opportunity to not just bring forward new buildings, but instead use carefully selected land that will create community hubs with integrated services. While investment always needs to be analysed, when it comes with the intention of creating fit-for-purpose, visually enhanced and multi-use spaces, it should be welcomed with open arms.

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