Statistics released by the Department for Education based on information provided by councils show that total expenditure on services for young people fell by 26 per cent from £1,184m in 2010/11 to £877m in 2011/12.
Detail on the depth of cuts to young people’s services, catalogued in local authority Section 251 returns, comes less than a week after Education Secretary Michael Gove told a commons select committee that youth services are not a central government priority.
Fiona Blacke, chief executive of the National Youth Agency (NYA), said the statistics show that local services for young people are continuing to suffer the brunt of cuts being experienced by local authorities.
“While it is expected that resources would be shifted to reach the most disadvantaged, it is extremely worrying that overall budgets for young people’s services have been cut by more than quarter,” she said.
“Lack of investment in open-access young people's services is a social time bomb, the consequences of which we will reap in years to come. Local authorities are key in securing a local offer to young people.
“In partnership with other organisations, they are striving to ensure that young people can access the important services they require. However this data also reveals that if councils are left to make their own decisions, the result is a postcode lottery.
"It is therefore crucial that the government does not relinquish its role in ensuring that services are adequately funded.”
Analysis of the data by the NYA shows that cuts to grants to local authorities mean that 90 per cent of local authorities in England (137 out of 152) have reported a decrease in total expenditure on services for young people.
However the scale of change in expenditure varies hugely. The biggest cut reported by a local authority was 95.2 per cent, while another authority reported a 65.5 per cent increase in funding for services.
In terms of individual areas of provision, teenage pregnancy services and substance misuse services have been the worst hit, seeing a cut of approximately 43 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
The data also shows that there has been a shift to focus resources on services for the most vulnerable young people – including youth work, positive activities and information, advice and guidance – with an increase of 35 per cent in expenditure in this type of targeted work.