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15 February 2024

Creating a level playing field for young people

Alannah Keogh
Senior Data Manager


Launched in August 2022, the UK Government funded Youth Investment Fund, worth over £300 million, was designed to transform youth services in some of the country’s most disadvantaged areas. It will give more young people new opportunities to have fun, make friends and develop vital skills for life and work and to support their wellbeing. The fund is delivered by Social Investment Business in partnership with Key Fund, National Youth Agency and Resonance.

To date £250 million in Youth Investment Fund grants has been publicly announced, allocated to over 220 youth projects, from large local authority projects to renovated scout huts from Liverpool to Lowestoft and Southampton to Sunderland. The first new build youth service has already opened its doors to young people, and by March 2025 the Youth Investment Fund will have created amazing new opportunities for over 45,000 young people.

The need

Social Investment Business and our delivery partners have taken a data driven and responsive approach to delivering the fund. Early on, we recognised that it was challenging for some youth services to cover the upfront costs associated with large capital projects. To progress their application, youth services needed to get to RIBA Stage 4, with all the detailed architectural and engineering designs and specifications in place ready for tendering.

This was a huge challenge, especially for some smaller youth services, and those struggling with cash-flow. We wanted to make sure there was a level playing field for all eligible youth services, and to ensure that every youth project applying for a grant, no matter how small, had the best opportunity to succeed. Our ambition, at every stage of delivering the fund, has been to make sure that more young people reaped the benefits, and to find solutions to any barriers youth projects faced. We needed to work proactively and come up with a simple workaround.

What we did

In response to listening to feedback and analysing the data, we developed a feasibility element of the grant process, to get applicants up to RIBA Stage 4. We worked quickly to ensure there was enough time for applicants to get through the pre-construction phase and still have time to complete their project by March 2025.  By early December 2022, just a few months after launching the main grant programme, we launched the new Pre-Construction Grant scheme.

Grants were offered to applicants already in the pipeline to cover upfront costs, enabling applicants to move closer to the procurement and construction phase. This included costs for architect’s designs and drawings, paying for a quantity surveyor, plus costs to cover surveys such as ecological, structural, archaeological, and flood risk surveys.

We designed a quick and simple process to make it as easy as possible for applicants to apply. There was no upper ceiling for a grant, but typically grants were around 3% of overall capital applications. Receiving a Pre-Construction Grant gave youth services the best opportunity to secure a capital Youth Investment Fund Grant.

The outcome 

Our agile and innovative approach to overcoming barriers paid off. The Pre-Construction Grant has successfully unlocked barriers to eligible youth services across England, giving more young people opportunities to have somewhere safe to go outside school and home and to thrive, explore their passions and gain vital skills for life. Developing the pre-construction grant approach will lead to thousands more young people reaping the benefits.

  • 63 Pre-Construction Grants were approved worth over £2.4 million.
  • 40 youth services (63%) went on to successfully complete their large capital Youth Investment Fund and between them were awarded £71, 877,797.00 (£64,041,385 Capital and £6,836,412.00 Revenue).
  • Once the awarded youth services have completed their capital project, they will be able to reach an additional 11, 254 young people.


Our learning 

Social Investment Business believes in the power of the social economy to build a more equal society. Our track record has taught us many things, including to root our decisions in data and evidence, to be ready to flex and adapt, to work collaboratively with partners and to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Creating the Pre-Construction Grant programme is a solid example of putting these beliefs into practice.  Developing this innovative solution enabled us to give every eligible youth service, however small or large, the best opportunity to succeed and secure much-needed funding to make their service more sustainable, accessible, and resilient, and vitally the ability to reach more young people and give them the best start in life.  

Pre-Construction Grants in action

105th Sheffield Scout Group was awarded a Pre-Construction Grant of £52,000 to help them fast-track securing a large capital grant. Their 60-year-old timber frame scout building was falling apart; it had no insulation was very expensive to heat and insure. The Scout Group is very popular, and there’s a long waiting list. Their small and dilapidated building meant they couldn’t support all the young people who are eager to join. They had previously struggled to secure enough funding to make a real difference to their run-down building.

Their Pre-Construction Grant enabled them to secure a full Youth Investment Fund grant of over £1.8 million. It would have been challenging for the Scout group to make the leap without start-up funding. Securing the grant will pay for a completely new building and once complete they will be able to increase their reach to young people from 69 to around 267 a week. The new Scout building is due to complete in May 2024.

Tom Hague, Assistant Group Scout Leader and Project Lead, explains the transformational impact of accessing a Pre-Construction Grant:

The Youth Investment Fund Pre-Construction Grant facilitated our project significantly, enabling us to develop our project design to RIBA stage 4, putting us in the best possible position for our grant submission to the Assessment Panel and Grant Committees. Without the Pre-Construction Grant, the Scout group would have spent all their savings to achieve RIBA stage 4, which was a huge risk for a small charity. Instead, the savings can now be spent on kitting out the new facility with resources, tables, chairs and IT, audio and visual equipment. The Pre-Construction Grant transformed our position, from being at risk, to being in a strong position not only for the grant submission, but in the long-term future, in delivering our aim of teaching skills for life to more young people in our community.

Tom Hague
Assistant Group Scout Leader and Project Lead, Sheffield Scout Group



































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