Intercultural Youth Scotland

Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS) is Scotland’s leading charity for Black and People of Colour (BPoC) youth. IYS is the only major organisation that is both youth-led and Black and PoC-led and key decisions within the organisation are led by a network of Youth Ambassadors. IYS is a community, a service and a voice for BPoC young people, providing a safe space and a place to nurture their talents. The charity covers a wide range of services from Youth Work,  Education, Employability and Mental health. 

David Chukwujekwu, Head of Media & Communications at IYS explained how the organisation works to tackle barriers facing the community by drawing on personal experience:

“We are experts on the challenges facing us, based on our extensive years of youth work experience, our direct connection with young people and our own personal experiences. One of the major barriers identified by IYS is the injustice of wealth and pay inequality. To help empower young people and ensure that pay is based on the cost of living, IYS became an accredited Living Wage employer in March 2021.”

According to David, this commitment also reflects the wider aims of the movement:

“We believe that one way to empower our young people is to ensure an equitable, Living Wage. This reflects their value as a part of the movement and encourages them to be driven and see themselves as young leaders with their own independence and agency.”

For IYS, payment of the real Living Wage was also an important way to reward the team for the challenging work that they do:

“The work we do can be highly emotionally taxing because of the overlaps in subject matter and identity faced by many of our employees. We want to ensure that people doing such difficult work don’t also have to worry about paying their bills. Sufficient compensation should be the first step in recognising the emotional labour attached to the physical.”

The Process

IYS found out about the real Living Wage through their work in activism and agreed that accreditation was something they hoped to pursue. However, as a young organisation, it took IYS some time to reach a level of stability and security they knew they needed as a team.

David explained:

“The charity sector is already a difficult space to find stability in, as insecure funding often breeds insecure contracts. Changing that has been our major priority in the past 6 months. We still feel the pressure to maximise the amount of work we can do to support the young people we work with, but part of implementing the real Living Wage is recognising that a well-supported team is ultimately more impactful.”

Once the organisation was ready to pursue accreditation, David and the team found information about the accreditation process and requirements on the Living Wage Scotland website and were able to complete the application with no problems. The whole team now receive the real Living Wage of  £9.50 per hour or above.

The Benefits

While IYS only recently joined the Living Wage family, the team are already feeling the benefits of accreditation.

David said:

“The most immediate impact of implementing the real Living Wage is the improved lives of our team – something that we expect will have knock-on effects in workplace culture, staff mental health and the outcomes of our projects. As an organisation that works to hold others to account, including in the area of fair employment practices, this also ensures we are leading by example.”

IYS team, including Employability Coordinator Murid, also see accreditation as an important step for the organisation:

“It’s vital for me to know that everyone I work with, and everyone I might work with in the future, is paid well enough to live. The struggle against racism is a struggle for better, fuller lives – where little limits us in our everydays and lifetimes. Paying the Living Wage goes a little way in ensuring that we are not, beyond the struggles myself and my colleagues face every single day, limited by our economic circumstance. It’s positive to know that my employer agrees and is committed to ensuring that we all earn enough not just to survive, but to have a level of freedom in leading our lives.”

Rama, IYS Creative Intern also feels motivated by the organisation’s commitment to fair work:

“To be working around people who inspire me, and towards something that I’m very passionate about, in order to change the lives of others like me is a privilege. With payment that most BPOC young adults don’t get, motivates me to work hard and pave a way.”

David and the team also agree that Living Wage plays an important part in building a sustainable and fair recovery as we emerge from the pandemic:

“As employers we have a responsibility to our staff and to our society to hold out against the pressure to shift the burden of the economic downturn onto those already struggling to get by. Implementing the real Living Wage is a straightforward and well-founded way of doing so. “