At least 160 youth centres have closed since 2016, a report based on Freedom of Information Act requests by Unison claims.
The union says the figures, based on responses from 101 councils, represent a serious false economy as youth centres help prevent crime, anti-social behaviour and misuse of drink and drugs – all of which result in higher public spending. They also promote education and training, Unison says.
The union claims that more than £13m has been cut from youth services in the last three years – compounding cuts of £387m between 2010 and 2016. The FOI responses suggest that around 900 youth workers have lost their jobs over the same period.
General secretary David Prentis said: 'Youth workers are invaluable in ensuring young people have a positive role in society. Funding for these services should not be cut at a time when they are needed more than ever.'
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said it was up to councils to decide how to spend the £90.7bn they are receiving from Whitehall over the next two years.
The ministry also pointed to the creation of the Early Intervention Youth Fund which will spend £18m over two years to help prevent youth crime and violence.