Millions axed from youth service spending, says UNISON

An estimated £387m has been axed in just six years from youth services across the UK, says a report from UNISON published today (Friday).

The report – A Future at Risk: Cuts in Youth Services – reveals that more than nine out of ten (93%) youth workers say their local authority employer has cut services since 2010. In the last year alone, more than half (55%) of councils reduced spending on youth services such as youth centres, outreach support and advice for young people.

This has led to the loss of nearly 140,000 places for young people and more than 3,600 youth work jobs as well as the closure of more than 600 youth centres since 2010.

This is according to the findings from A Future at Risk which are based on responses from 180 local authorities, and from a survey of youth workers employed by councils.

A Future at Risk warns that the outlook for youth services is bleak with UNISON predicting that from 2016/17 there will be:

  • at least £26m more cuts in youth service spending;
  • 45,000 more youth service places removed;
  • 800 more jobs lost;
  • more than 30 youth centres closed.

It comes at a time when young people desperately need support, says UNISON. Nearly three in ten (28%) 16 to 17-year-olds and more than one in ten (12%) 18 to 24-year-olds are unemployed.

The impact of cuts is considerable with nearly four in five (77%) youth workers reporting increased mental health issues among young people, and 83% saying that crime and anti-social behaviour had increased as a result.

UNISON is calling for several reforms including provision of youth services to become a statutory duty for councils, for services to be fully funded and kept in-house, and for young people to be consulted on changes to services.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Youth workers are tireless in the support they provide to young people, for example helping them find work and getting more education.

“It’s youth services which prevent problems happening in the first place by reducing feelings of isolation among young people and helping teenagers to lead positive lives.

“But they’ve been relentlessly cut and undermined at a time when they are needed more than ever. This is damaging young people’s life chances, especially those from poorer backgrounds, and raising the risk of mental illness as well as anti-social behaviour. It’s vital these public services are protected.”

Notes to editors:

* A Future at Risk: Cuts in Youth Services is based on a freedom of information request to all local authorities in Britain providing youth services, and on a survey of people working in youth services across the UK.
* The full report can be found here.

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