ACADEMICS have warned Britain's divorce from Europe could have a detrimental impact on the youth work sector and young people's opportunities.

In a new analysis of the current benefit of EU funding to Scotland’s youth work sector leading experts from the University of Glasgow and the University of the West of Scotland warn that “any loss of investment due to leaving the EU would present extreme challenges across a sector that is already struggling to sustain the minimum level of services and project management”.

The researchers also point to election analysis carried out post the Brexit vote which showed that “under-25s were more than twice as likely to vote Remain (71 per cent) than Leave (29 per cent)” and suggest that young people will arguably feel this impact more acutely than many others.

The authors state that the impact on the youth work sector is unknown and also unpredictable, and point to a report by the European Commission which argued: “There is a growing use and reliance in EU level support and financing for the youth work sector as other sources of funding at national level are reduced.”

A key strand of current EU funding for the youth work sector is Erasmus+ youth funding.

Between 2009 and 2016 Scotland received €2,193,700 in funding for youth organisations. The fund pays for youth exchanges, training and practice development for youth workers and the European Voluntary Service, which allows young people to volunteer in another country for up to 12 months.

Dr. Annette Coburn, the University of the West of Scotland and Dr. Sinead Gormally of the University of Glasgow who have examined the potential loss of Erasmus+ funding to Scotland, said: “Incoming and outgoing exchanges have brought perspectives to the wider youth work sector workforce and more directly to the heart of our most deprived communities which adds social benefit in transmitting important values of social justice and equality, citizenship and sustainable development.

“The promise of reducing inequalities and ensuring that local services are managed by local communities is potentially compromised by a reduced infrastructure for youth work support and participation in, for example, asset transfer projects. Against this backdrop, there are obvious impacts in terms of a financial gap in the level of investment in youth work projects. Currently this includes significant levels of funding via Erasmus+ and workforce investment.”

Jim Sweeney, CEO of Scotland’s national youth work agency, YouthLink Scotland said: “Although we do not know exactly how funding will be affected in a post Brexit scenario, it would be absolutely unacceptable for this vital cash not to be replaced by the UK government.

"We would like to see the Prime Minister make a commitment to the continuation of Erasmus+, a programme that already involves non-EU members, including Iceland and Norway. The youth work sector is already struggling and any cutting of money currently coming from the EU would hit those young people in disadvantaged communities the hardest.”