Figures uncovered today by YMCA reveal the true extent of cuts to youth services funding by local authorities in England and Wales since 2010, with an allocation of just under £429m in 2018/19, compared to £1.4bn in 2010/11 - a real terms decline of 70%.
Discovered as part of a report into local authority expenditure on youth services in 2018/19, these latest figures add to almost a decade of devastating cuts as spending reaches its lowest point in a generation.
The report emphasises England as most severely affected with a further loss of nearly £26m (6%) identified in the past year alone, delivering a damaging blow to already strained resources.
Every region of England has each seen funding for youth services cut by more than 60% since 2010, with some of the most severely affected experiencing average area cuts of as much as 74% in the North West, 76% in the North East, and 80% in the West Midlands.
Further breakdown locally reveals funding deficits of more than 90% in areas such as Gateshead, Nottingham and Norfolk, with a complete loss of funding for youth services uncovered in Trafford, Medway, Luton and Slough.
With a decline of 38%, cuts in Wales have been less acute than in England, however vital funding for youth services has still reduced by £19m since 2010, with significant and persistent loss evident each year. Young people in Mid Wales have faced the biggest cuts as a region with funding more than halved (58%) compared to 2010, while Cardiff has suffered the most severe decline of 64%.
For the purposes of this research, ‘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
- targeted provision for vulnerable young people, including teenage pregnancy advice, youth justice teams, and drug and alcohol misuse services
YMCA are calling on the next Government to prioritise young people and reinvest in youth services by meeting the following 3 tests:
- Reinstate and ring-fence youth services funding to 2010/11 level
- Provide universal youth services and targeted support for all young people
- Create a national youth service strategy
This is vital so that services for young people don’t become a thing of the past.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales, said:
“Youth services exist to provide a sense of belonging, a safe space, and the opportunity for young people to enjoy being young. However, for almost a decade now local authorities have struggled under the weight of funding pressures, meaning youth services are being forced to endure continued and damaging cuts.
“No part of society could be expected to suffer almost a billion-pounds worth of real term cuts and for there to be no consequences across our communities. However, young people’s needs continue to be brushed aside by decision makers as unworthy of support.
“The reality behind these figures is that since 2010 more than 4,500 youth work jobs have been cut and 760 youth centres have closed. We believe this is unacceptable. Without drastic action to protect funding and significantly re-invest in youth services, we are condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn.”
Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“While the Government’s recent promise of £500 million investment in youth services is a step in the right direction, this report supports our call for an ambitious national strategy to support young people and the need for more sustainable, long-term investment.
“Services such as youth centres and youth work make a real difference to young people’s lives and councils are doing all they can to protect them.
“Rising demand and fewer resources has made it increasingly difficult for councils to prioritise these preventative services, with funding being diverted to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.
“It is important that services supporting young people, children and families are fully funded and we want to work with government to ensure this is recognised in the upcoming Budget.”
The day-to-day impact of youth services often goes unnoticed by the public, but the consequences of these cuts cannot be underestimated. Cases of knife crime, mental health difficulties and isolation among young people continue to rise, while the number of services available to positively intervene and prevent such cases continue to decline.
Scott, 14, attends a YMCA open access youth club twice a week. Gang crime is very prevalent in the area where Scott lives, meaning it’s considered unsafe for him to play outside.
Scott said: “I do see a lot of bad things happening, like people getting robbed and knife crimes with gangs. I don’t want that to happen to me. I feel safe in the youth club because all the youth workers are really nice, they have a lot of fun, a lot of laughs.”
Each year YMCA supports more than 33,500 young people through our youth work, with almost 8,000 participants involved in crime prevention and avoidance programmes.
In response to such overwhelming funding cuts, YMCA is asking the public to show their support in making young people the central focus of government action. By reinstating youth services funding to 2010/11 real term levels and introducing a national youth services strategy, government would enable local authorities to deliver necessary youth services locally and support their communities.
YMCA ask the public to show their commitment by signing this petition and raising the issue of youth services with their local MP. Together, we can ensure that the services, which provide a sense of belonging and keep young people safe, do not become a thing of the past.
Methodology: YMCA England and Wales undertook this research. The aim of the research was to investigate how local authority of Local Authority spending on youth services had changed since 2010/11.
The analysis was conducted by taking the individual datasets of local authority spending on youth services for each financial year since 2010/11 and then converting these costings into real terms to make them comparable with 2018/19. The financial and cost difference were then analysed at a national level (England, Wales and both combined), at a regional level, and at a local level with the highest and lowest levels of cuts.