The cutting of funding for youth services has had a devastating impact on society. The importance of youth services is consistently overlooked by government and we are now beginning to see the consequences of their actions. As a volunteer at several youth provisions over the last four years, I have first-hand experience of these lasting impacts.
Why have youth services been cut?
It all started during Michael Gove’s tenure as education secretary in 2013, when during an Education Select Committee he stated that youth policy was not a central government priority and it was for local government to deal with. This might have been alright if the Tories were properly funding local government, but the Conservatives’ Austerity agenda has meant spending on local services has been cut by 21% over the last decade. This had led to local authorities having to prioritise their limited funding on services such as education and adult social care. The sad knock-on effect has been the serious underfunding of our youth services.
How much have youth services been cut by?
Nationally, spending has been cut by nearly £1bn, equalling a decrease of 71%. These figures may surprise you but in the West Midlands, the situation is even more shocking. The West Midlands’ 80% decrease in youth service funding is the biggest regional cut in the U.K.
What impact does this have on youth services?
The cuts to the funding of youth provisions has led to a huge cut in the number of youth centres, detached youth teams, and other youth-orientated services available. This has meant that many young people, especially those in the most deprived areas, have been left with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and perhaps most importantly, no one safe to talk to outside of the home or school environment.Lisa Adams—Local youth worker.
There is no doubt that cuts of funding to youth services has led to a cut of services, with fewer youth clubs open, meaning that some young people do not have a positive role model in their life.
The cut in youth services has had an extremely detrimental effect on the number of youth services in the community and the amount of time those youth clubs that are left can stay open. These cuts have also led to a decrease in people training to become youth workers. Therefore, we are seeing fewer qualified youth workers and many youth provisions having to rely on volunteers to continue to function. The cost of these cuts on our youth, particularly vulnerable young people, is immeasurable.
Why are youth provisions so important?
Youth provision is so important because young people need those safe, youth-friendly places to hang out and socialise appropriately whilst finding support, friendship, positive relationships, conversation, informal education and trusted adults who understand and are trained to work with young people.Stuart Holmes—Local youth worker with 25 years of experience.
Youth provisions provide a safe place where young people can come together with peers outside of school. It is a space for them to belong, to develop socially and emotionally, and to learn valuable life skills that schools are unable to provide under the current curriculum. Detached youth workers engage with young people where they are on the streets in a way that schools and family are often unable to. Having somewhere to go and/or a safe adult to talk to can have a huge impact on a young person’s mental health, and on how vulnerable they are to grooming, gang culture, and drug/alcohol issues.Lisa Adams—Local youth worker.
In the last few years, we have seen an increase in crimes committed by children and young people, and this can be blamed on the decrease in funding of youth provisions. Services such as youth clubs can keep young people off the street and stop them from turning to crime, and youth provisions can help decrease the number of young people committing crimes by educating young people on the dangers of (for example) knife crime. If we want to effectively tackle crime committed by young people, we need to fund our youth services.
Mental health has become an increasing issue for young people in previous years. A survey conducted in 2004 found that 1/10 children between 5-15 had a mental health disorder, with a more recent study in 2017 finding that this had increased to 1/9 children. Youth provisions are essential in supporting individuals with mental health disorders, as they can often provide a safe space for young people to talk about their worries. Often youth workers can become positive role models for young people, and over time they feel more comfortable talking to a youth worker. Many youth workers take courses such as the MHFA training, which enables individuals to be a qualified Mental Health First Aider. However, with more cuts to the local authorities and then youth services, many providers will simply not be able to afford to send youth workers on these essential courses.
Less pressure on other services
Youth provisions can decrease the pressure on other services such as the police and ambulance services, as the decreased crime among young people will mean that these services have more time and resources to use on other important services. This would be a benefit for everyone as waiting times for the police and ambulance service will be decreased, perhaps even saving people’s lives!
Youth Services providing an outlet for young people to meet up, let off steam, be creative, etc. will have a net benefit for our society and our local communities. There are millions of young people out there that need support. Sadly, I have little faith in this government to provide that.