More than 2,000 youth workers have been axed and 350 youth centres closed since 2012 as a direct result of Coalition Government cuts, a new report by UNISON has found.
The study, released ahead of International Youth Day tomorrow (12 August*), reveals a staggering 41,000 youth service places for young people have been lost, while 35,000 hours of outreach work by youth workers have been removed.
The research is based on FoI data collected from 168 local authorities across the UK, and a survey of UNISON members working in youth services. It reveals that youth services lost at least £60m of funding between 2012 and 2014. 73% of local authorities surveyed revealed they had scaled back youth service spending because of central government cuts.
The overall picture shows a reduced level of service, provided by staff who are more thinly spread and unable to work as productively as in the past.
Essex County Council cut youth service spending by 44% between 2011/12 and 2012/13, and in the following year, between 2012/13 and 2013/14, Warwickshire County Council slashed youth service spending by a staggering 56%, while Havering lopped off 39%.
Youth services provide vital support to young people and to society, such as helping young people into work, improving the take-up of education, reducing substance abuse, preventing crime and improving community cohesion.
UNISON, which represents more than 600,000 local government workers, is warning that youth workers are being lost as council budgets for youth work are cut back or disappear.
The union is calling for government legislation to ensure that every local authority provides some form of youth service. It believes that councils should employ their own youth workers to work collaboratively with the communities they serve.
UNISON Head of Local Government, Heather Wakefield, said:
“Cuts to youth services lead to increased poverty, crime**, higher youth unemployment and an increase in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. These factors will have major knock-on effects on communities, the criminal justice system, the health service and the economy.
“Qualified youth workers, and youth support workers, are a vital part of our public services and provide real value to our communities. But Government spending cuts are creating a crisis with skilled workers forced out of the profession, with an increasing reliance on untrained staff and volunteers to work with vulnerable young people.”
These cuts are part of a longer-term trend since the Coalition came to power in 2010. 93% of survey respondents said that their local authority had cut youth spending since 2010. Earlier research by UNISON found that youth service spending was cut by £62m in 2010/11 and £137m in 2011/12.
Notes to Editors
A copy of the report is available:
* The United Nations’ International Youth Day is celebrated on August 12 each year to recognise the efforts of the world’s youth in enhancing global society.
** The Audit Commission has reported that a young person in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer more than £200,000. In contrast, a young person who receives support to stay outside the system costs less than £50,000.
Youth work is provided through a combination of open access services and targeted services. Open access services are open to all young people, such as youth centres or outward bound courses. Targeted services are tailored to the needs of particular groups, including young LGBT people, those in troubled families or those at risk of alcohol abuse.