A whole generation of young people have been ‘robbed’ of youth centres due to cuts, a union has warned.
A new YMCA report reveals the 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%.
The report emphasises that England has been most severely affected with a further loss of nearly £26m (6%) identified in the past year alone.
It also shows that every region of England has each seen funding for youth services cut by more than 60% since 2010.
Some of the most severely affected experienced average 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.
‘Youth services exist to provide a sense of belonging, a safe space, and the opportunity for young people to enjoy being young,’ said Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales.
‘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 940 youth centres have closed. We believe this is unacceptable,’ continued Ms Hatton.
‘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.’
Responding to the report, Unison head of local government Jon Richards, said: ‘A generation of young people have been robbed of the safety net of youth centres.
‘It’s no surprise there’s been an increase in unemployment, mental health problems and gang-related activity.
‘The short-sighted closing of youth centres will be felt for years to come – with some young people paying the ultimate price.’