Youth services 'decimated by £1bn of cuts'

By Nina Jacobs

| 08 October 2019

Youth services in England have been "decimated" by £1bn worth of cuts, a drop of 73 per cent over the last decade, new research from the Labour Party shows.

Labour's shadow minister for youth affairs Cat Smith: "Labour will restore a nationwide youth service". Picture: Parliament.UK

The party's analysis of Department of Education figures on government spending reveals an "alarming scale" of cuts which it says have resulted in the loss of thousands of youth work jobs and hundreds of youth centres.

The Labour Party said the DfE statistics showed £1,184,122 was spent on youth services for 2010/11, plummeting to just around £375,000 by 2019/20, a fall of 73 per cent.

Adjusted for inflation, the spending for 2010/11 would be more than £1.38bn in 2019, it said.

In nearly a decade, this meant a real-term change of more than £1bn on spending on total services for young people.

The research carried out by the party reveals 14,500 youth and community work jobs in England have been lost since 2008, a reduction of 58 per cent.

It also drew on a survey published by Unison last year which found more than 760 youth centres had closed since 2012.

The latest findings follow the announcement of Labour's Only Young Once strategy to deliver a universal youth service which takes a public health approach to young people's needs.

It said rising levels of knife crime, county lines, mental ill-health and loneliness, rising exclusions and exam pressures meant being a young person was "harder than ever".

The party is pledging to end a postcode lottery for young people accessing youth services by introducing a new national Youth Service Guarantee.

This would ensure every young person had access to high-quality youth work in their community regardless of their background and circumstances, it said.

Its youth services would also provide all young people with extra-curricular activities to encourage engagement in arts and sport and provide a safe space to develop social groups, it added.

"Labour will prioritise community-based non-formal education that harnesses young people's skills and empowers them to improve their own lives," the party said.

It unveiled plans to increase the number of qualified youth workers who would be able to signpost young people onto further services if needed and to help improve joint working between agencies.

Cat Smith, Labour's shadow minister for youth affairs, said young people deserved role models who could build their aspirations and empower them to recognise their strengths.

"There are far too many young people today growing up with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to speak to about their lives.

"Labour will restore a nationwide youth service, built for the many young people who represent our future, not just for the few young people requiring youth justice interventions," she said.

Under the new proposals, Labour said it would develop a young person-centred service introducing a statutory right to young people to be consulted on the development of local youth service plans and in the formation of any national body.

The move has been welcomed by youth organisation Young Voices Heard which said it was part of a commitment to strengthening youth voice participation and scrutiny powers.

James Cathcart, the organisation's founder, said: "It's important that the proposed impact and influence of young people will be recognised publicly so that their valued participation becomes the norm not the novelty to public opinion."

National Youth Agency chief executive Leigh Middleton, said: "Youth services have all but disappeared from most communities.

"A shift to short-term, targeted funding has led to a postcode lottery of provision and a dramatic loss of trained youth workers.

"A revitalised universal youth service is vital to provide safe spaces and guidance outside of school, supporting young people in their communities and their ambitions for the future."

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