Knife crime and cuts to youth services

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2019 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2019
Carried as Amended

Conference notes the alarming spike in knife crime in 2018. Knife crime in London has risen by 16 percent in the past two years and over 50 people were killed by stabbings and shootings in the first 3 months of the year.

Conference notes that the furore over the ‘knife crime epidemic’ served to demonise Black youth who are blamed for the stabbings, whilst in reality they are victims of the crime. Urban youth music such as ‘drill’ music has also been blamed for the rise in knife crime.

However, conference recognises that one of the main reasons behind the rise in stabbings is the cuts in services to young people. Young Black people have been worst hit under the Tories’ austerity programme with Black youth unemployment of 25 percent compared to white youth unemployment of 12 percent.

Youth services in particular have been slashed to the bone. Youth services help young people to lead positive lives as members of society. If they are properly organised under the democratic control of the local authority, they also have the potential to bring diverse communities of young people together. This would lead to greater community cohesion.

UNISON’s research has found that by 2016, £387m had been cut from youth services, with the loss of more than 3600 jobs and 600 youth centres. Figures from the House of Commons library show councils predicted spend on youth services dropped by 53.6 percent between 2010 and 2017. Local authorities have responded to Tory cuts by reducing youth service budgets, outsourcing to alternative delivery models, and merging youth services with other departments – like social work, youth offending teams, and libraries.

In 2015, in response to Southwark council’s 60 percent cut to youth services and merger with leisure services, Damilola Taylor’s father stated ‘More kids will be stabbed if youth services are cut. Bearing in mind the level of killing, stabbing and violence this is not the right time. This is the wrong approach and bad decision of the council’

Conference notes that cuts to youth services are compounded by cuts to children and adolescence mental health services, support for young people with behavioural difficulties in schools and all education services are all having an impact on the lives of young people.

Conference therefore welcomes Labour manifesto commitment, when in government, to reverse the youth service cuts, restore EMA, set a £10 hour minimum wage, ban zero hours contracts and end student tuition fees. Conference notes that Labour’s anti-austerity message is massively popular with young Black people and amongst our members.

Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive to:

1) Further develop the campaign against youth service cuts and UNISON initiatives fighting the cuts in youth worker jobs and the closure of youth centres;

2) Work with Labour Link to support the call to stop youth centre closures, to support funding to youth organisations and to make youth services a statutory function;

3) Work with the national Black members committee to develop campaign material that specifically expose the impact of these cuts and the rise in youth violence;