Youth services suffer 70% funding cut in less than a decade
Cuts have been so severe that youth services in some areas, including Trafford, Medway, Luton and Slough, have completely lost their funding.
Spending on youth services in England and Wales has been cut by 70% in real terms in less than a decade, with the loss of £1bn of investment resulting in zero funding in some areas, according to research.
Analysis by the YMCA youth charity found that local authority expenditure on youth services dropped from £1.4bn in 2010-11 to just under £429m in 2018-19, resulting in the loss of 750 youth centres and more than 4,500 youth workers.
Spending is at its lowest point in a generation, according to the YMCA, and cuts have been so severe that youth services in some areas, including Trafford, Medway, Luton and Slough, have completely lost their funding.
Youth services in England have been worse affected than Wales, according to YMCA analysis of local authority spending. Last year, funding for youth services accounted for just 4% of local spending on children and young people’s services in England, compared with 13% in 2010-11.
Youth services are seen by those working in the sector as vital in the fight against knife crime, but cash-strapped local authorities – whose funding from central government has dramatically declined – say they have been forced to divert money to frontline services, protecting children at immediate risk of harm.
According to YMCA analysis, every region in England has suffered cuts of at least 60% since 2010, rising to 74% in the north-west, 76% in the north-east and 80% in the West Midlands. Gateshead, Nottingham and Norfolk have suffered cuts of more than 90%.
The research confirms and builds on previous warnings by the YMCA. While cuts were most acute in 2011-12 when funding was reduced by more than a quarter, in the past year alone youth services in England lost £26m in real terms – a 6% cut on the previous year.
The YMCA report, called Out of Service, finds that youth services in Wales have had their funding cut by 38%, which equates to a loss of £19m since 2010. Cardiff has suffered the biggest loss with a 64% reduction.
Denise Hatton, the chief executive of YMCA England and Wales, said: “No part of society could be expected to suffer almost a billion pounds’ worth of real-terms 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.
“We believe this is unacceptable. Without drastic action to protect funding and significantly reinvest in youth services, we are condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn.”
Youth services include leisure, sporting and enrichment activities often based around youth centres, as well as targeted provision for vulnerable young people, including teenage pregnancy advice, youth justice support, and drug and alcohol misuse services.
Before the budget on 11 March, the YMCA is calling for youth services funding to return to 2010-11 levels in real terms and for the introduction of a national youth services strategy.
Responding to the YMCA research, the government said councils in England would have access to £49.1bn next year, “the biggest annual real-terms increase in spending power in a decade” and pointed to a new £500m youth investment fund.
“Councils, not central government, are best placed to know what their communities need and they take decisions about how much they spend on youth services,” a government spokesperson said.
The Local Government Association welcomed the £500m fund as a step in the right direction but called for 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,” said Judith Blake, the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board.
“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.”
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