Cuts in Youth Services

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2014 Local Government Service Group Conference
12 February 2014

Conference notes that under the Conservative-led Government, massive cuts have been made in youth and community services. In a survey of UNISON members carried out in 2013, 89% of respondents reported that their local authority had cut services for young people. And according to responses to a Freedom of Information request by UNISON at the end of 2013, 72% of local authorities had cut their youth service budgets between 2012 and 2014 alone. Cuts of several hundred thousand pounds have been common-place over this period. In some authorities as much as three-quarters of the youth service budget has been cut, while in others the whole service has been cut.

These cuts have led to hundreds of UNISON members losing their jobs – 82% of survey participants reported job losses as a result of cuts. 52% of survey respondents said youth centres had closed. And thousands of hours of outreach work have been lost in many local authorities.

Conference further notes that youth services will suffer far worse cuts between now and 2015/16, as the full impact of the Government’s local government funding cuts becomes evident. In Cymru/Wales, local authorities which have until recently shielded youth services from cuts are now reducing jobs and services.

Conference also notes that UNISON’s membership in youth services has fallen, and that it is vital that we maintain and improve our membership and organisation, to strengthen our fights against job cuts and for fair pay.

Conference believes that fully funded youth services, provided by trained professional youth workers and youth support workers, are a crucial element of support for young people. The relationships developed between youth work professionals and young people provide immense benefit to young people and their communities. They help young people make their own choices in life, for example in employment and education, and they reduce the burden on other services such as the health service, social care and the justice system.

Conference further believes that the cuts in youth services will lead to higher youth unemployment, less empowerment among young people, an increase in mental health and substance abuse issues among young people, and particular problems for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, those from poorer backgrounds, and those from minority ethnic groups. Large numbers of respondents to UNISON’s survey reported on an increase in these problems following cuts in youth services.

Conference therefore instructs the Service Group Executive:

1)To ensure that cuts in youth services form a key part of the Service Group’s UK-wide campaigning against the Government’s cuts, using particularly badly hit youth services as examples of the impact of the cuts, and raising awareness of these cuts among the public, the media and politicians.

2)To work with other campaign groups, such as In Defence of Youth Work and Choose Youth, to highlight the importance of youth services, and to ensure that those groups focus on the importance of a well-trained, fairly paid, professional workforce.

3)To support and promote the planned Choose Youth lobby of parliament, set for February 2015.

4)To work with Labour Link to influence the Labour Party’s general election manifesto to develop a coherent youth policy that is fully and appropriately resourced, emphasising the clear benefits for wider society as well as for young people.

5)To provide support, through Regions, to branches in their efforts to defend jobs and support members who are going through transfers of employment.

6)To work with the National Youth and Community Workers Committee, to develop recruitment and organising initiatives aimed at maintaining and increasing UNISON’s membership and organisational strength in youth services.