Labour attacks government over youth services cuts

By Joe Lepper

| 06 November 2017

The Labour Party has criticised the government for "devastating" the youth sector through cuts to local authority funding.

Labour MP Cat Smith said the government has treated young people as a "second thought". Picture: UK Parliament

Labour's shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs Cat Smith said the government has treated young people as a "second thought" adding that youth services are currently needed more than ever.

The comments, which coincide with the start of Youth Work Week (6-12 November), where groups such as the National Youth Agency and the British Youth Council are staging events to celebrate youth work, come on the back of analysis of local authority spending figures.

According to figures published by the House of Commons library, following a request by Labour, the amount councils plan to spend on youth services has dropped by more than a half (53.6 per cent) over the past seven years.

The analysis shows that the total net expenditure on services for young people was £787.2m in 2011/12 but fell to £364.9m by 2017/18, a reduction of £422.2m.

In September, Department for Education figures looking at councils' gross expenditure showed there had been a fall of 15 per cent in youth services spending between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

"Youth workers are the unsung heroes of our communities, helping young people to develop the skills and confidence they need to build a positive future," Smith said.

"However, this analysis demonstrates how this Tory government's ideologically driven cuts on local authorities have devastated the sector at a time when they are needed more than ever.

"Once again we see how the Conservatives treat young people as a second thought."

She reiterated an earlier pledge by Labour that if elected it would appoint a minister for youth affairs to co-ordinate youth policy across Whitehall and be an advocate for young people in government.

In a video statement published on Twitter, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also criticised cuts to youth services and pledged to increase investment in the sector and review how youth work is delivered.

A report released last year by the union Unison found that since 2012 more than 600 youth centres had closed, 3,500 youth work jobs had gone and 140,000 places for young people had been cut.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, spokesman said: "We are completely committed to supporting young people.

"This includes significant financial backing for the National Citizen Service and £80m of exchequer and lottery cash into the Youth Investment Fund and 'I Will' campaign to help expand life-changing projects across England.

"On top of that we are supporting the Centre for Youth Impact in their work to champion the transformational impact youth services can have on the lives of young people."

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has also accused the government of "sabotaging" a private members' bill put forward by Labour MP Jim McMahon to lower the voting age in elections from 18 to 16.

It said Conservative MPs deliberately made long speeches during an earlier debate - known as filibustering - to ensure there was not enough time to allow McMahon's bill to be put to a vote last week.

"Labour's bill to extend the voting age to 16- and 17-year-olds was blocked by the Conservative Party," Smith said.

"By sabotaging this important vote, the Tories have once again demonstrated to a generation of young people that they don't take your views seriously and that you should not have your say over your future."

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