Axing millions from youth work puts futures at risk, says UNISON

£13.3m gone from youth services in just three years

Young people’s futures are being put at risk as a result of the government axing £13.3m from youth services across the UK in just three years, according to a UNISON report published today (Monday).

The report – Youth Services at Breaking Point – reveals that between 2016 and 2019*, nearly 900 youth worker jobs have been cut and at least 160 youth centres have closed their doors.

Youth Services at Breaking Point is based on responses to a freedom of information request (FoI), which was sent to all UK local authorities that provide youth services, and from a survey of youth workers employed by councils.

These cuts have meant the loss of more than 4,500 youth work jobs and over 760 youth centres since 2012.

According to the UNISON survey, just half (53%) of youth workers believe their council is delivering quality services. This is unsurprising given that £400m has been slashed from youth service budgets since 2010, says UNISON.

A lack of funding is having a considerable impact, with seven in ten (70%) youth workers telling UNISON that they regularly do more than their contracted hours.  

It is understandable that the strain on resources is affecting how youth workers feel about their jobs, says UNISON. Seven in ten (74%) don’t feel secure in their job, and two in five (41%) are thinking about leaving for better paid work.

UNISON is calling for several reforms to the way in which youth services are run. These include fair and proper funding for youth services and a statutory duty on councils to provide youth services.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Youth services have been hit disproportionately hard by spending cuts in the last decade.

“Youth services help with employment, training and education, potential mental health issues, and act to prevent alcohol and substance abuse, as well as crime and anti-social behaviour. This all saves other parts of the public sector and the wider economy large amounts of money.

“Youth workers are invaluable in ensuring young people have a positive role in society. Funding for these services should not be cut at a time when they are needed more than ever.”

Notes to editors:
– Of the relevant local authorities in the UK that provide youth services including county councils, unitary authorities, metropolitan authorities, and London boroughs, 101 responses were received.
– The full report is available here.
– An earlier UNISON youth work report – published in 2016 – found that more than nine out of ten (93%) youth workers said their local authority employer had cut services since 2010. And that more than half (55%) of councils had reduced spending on youth services in the previous year.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

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