Charities issue stark warning over ‘decimation of youth services’
Thursday, September 16, 2021
The National Youth Agency and YMCA have warned that a failure to invest immediately in youth services will “decimate” the sector and leave “a generation of young people without opportunities to thrive”.
They say that urgent funding is needed as cuts have left as many as one in four youth centres under threat of closure.
The warning has come in the charities’ report Time’s Running Out, which says a national strategy is needed to secure the long-term future of youth services.
Detailed in the report is the extent of funding cuts to youth services over the last decade.
This includes figures that show the average net spending per young person has fallen from £136 to £54 since 2011.
Annual spending across council areas “varies wildly”, from £250 per young person to £25 in some areas, the report warns.
It also finds that disadvantaged areas have been hardest hit. The more deprived a local authority, “the greater and quicker the level of cuts to its youth services it has suffered since 2011”, says the report.
Spending on targeted youth services in the most deprived areas has fallen by 54 pence per pound since 2011, compared to a drop of 31 pence per pound in affluent areas.
The charities’ report calls for the “immediate release” of the government's £500m Youth Investment Fund, that was first pledged by then Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid in September 2019, but has since been blighted by delays.
This fund should “act as a down-payment towards levelling up opportunities with young people”, the report states.
“Youth services simply do not have the capacity or enough funding to meet young people’s vastly increased needs from the pandemic,” it concludes.
“Local authority services face a devastating round of further cuts and many youth charities have depleted reserves, struggling for survival.”
Another recommendation is for long-term investment for youth services in the government’s spending review.
This is needed to recruit and train 10,000 youth workers and improve the skills of 40,000 volunteers as well as provide work placements for 20,000 young people and volunteers as entry level youth workers, says the report.
“This dire situation is only set to get worse before it gets better, as a dramatically increased need for provision is met with further budget cuts locally,” said YMCA chief executive Denise Hatton.
“Every decision not to invest in youth services right now, forces more and more youth centres into perilous situations.”
NYA chief executive Leigh Middleton added: “Young people must be made a priority for Covid-recovery.”
In February, the YMCA found that youth services funding has been cut by almost three quarters over the last decade.