Rise in knife crime shines spotlight on youth services cuts

By agency reporter
April 30, 2018

Youth services have become the ‘go to’ budget for cuts as local authorities do not recognise the long-term benefits to young people, the YMCA has warned, after an analysis shows spending across these services in England and Wales has fallen by 61 per cent over the past six years.

YMCA England and Wales, which supports 33,560 young people through youth work and youth services every year, has released its analysis of local authority spending on youth services, revealing it had reduced by more than £750 million since 2010/11 across England and Wales.

Young people in the West Midlands and the North West have been among the hardest hit, with local authorities in the West Midlands cutting spending by 71 per cent since 2010/11, while the North West saw cuts of 68 per cent. Local authorities in London, which have faced criticism following the rise in recent knife crime among young people, have cut spending on youth services by 59 per cent since 2010/11.

The YMCA’s Youth and Consequences analysis also showed that 2011/12 saw the most significant cuts in England with a reduction of more than a quarter (26 per cent) of funding to youth services taking place in just one year, with no sign of relenting. Last year alone, local authority spending on youth services reduced by £80 million, which is equivalent to a 15 per cent reduction on the previous year.

In Wales, the cuts have been less acute than in England, yet expenditure on youth services still reduced by 30 per cent, from spending £45 million in 2010/11 to £31 million in 2016/17.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive for YMCA England and Wales, said, “For more than half a decade, services that provide young people with positive activities that support their learning and development and allow them to meet new friends and socialise, have been chipped away to the point that they are almost non-existent if it wasn’t for charities and social enterprises.

“Unfortunately it is not until news of young people’s loneliness or incidents like the recent knife crimes in London hit the headlines, [that] the role of youth services is in the spotlight. But like all news cycles, this will pass and public outrage will simmer down, yet cuts to youth services will continue if local authorities don’t recognise its vital benefits to the development of young people.

“Without drastic action to protect funding and making youth services a statutory service, we are condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn.”

* The term youth services broadly encapsulates two types of service: ‘open-access’ (or ‘universal’) services including a range of leisure, cultural, sporting and enrichment activities often based around youth centres; and more targeted provision for vulnerable young people, including teenage pregnancy advice, youth justice teams, and drug and alcohol misuse services.

* Read Youth and Consequences: A report examining Local Authority expenditure on youth services in England and Wales here

* YMCA https://www.ymca.org.uk/


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