Youth services in England have had their funding cut by 73% in less than a decade, analysis by the YMCA has found.
The YMCA said that local authority spending on youth services in 2019/20 in England was £372.12m, a reduction of 6% year-on-year. The youth charity said the means that, since 2010/11, funding for youth services has been cut by 73%.
These continued cuts come at a time when demand for youth services has intensified and when the crucial investment has been promised but not yet fully delivered.
The charity said youth services are critical due to the disproportionate and devastating impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health.
The YMCA’s Back on Track report found that more than half (57%) of young people felt that their mental health had worsened during lockdown, with 77% feeling lonelier and more isolated.
While recent findings from NHS Digital show that one-in-six children aged 5-16 now identified as having a probable mental disorder, an increase from one-in-nine three years ago.
The charity said, after suffering such disruption during their formative years, it is more important than ever for young people to have access to services and safe spaces for their personal, social and emotional development outside of home or school.
Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England and Wales, said these service,s are a key element in young people’s recovery, both now and into the future, and it is crucial that funding delivers on what they so desperately need.
‘In our Out of Service report one year ago, YMCA warned that without significantly re-investing in youth services we would be condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn. The traumatic impact of the pandemic, combined with faltering investment and continued cuts means that this warning is perilously close to becoming a reality.
‘The government must deliver on its promises, such as those outlined in the Youth Investment Fund, and significantly re-invest in youth services right now in order to change the course of the future for thousands of anxious, isolated and vulnerable young people.
‘While we appreciate that difficult decisions must be made in order to protect the financial health of the country as it recovers from the pandemic, now is the time for areas buckling under the strain of consistent underfunding to be held up and helped to rebuild in order to support their communities.
‘With the right funding and strategic planning, youth services can be utilised to carefully and positively build young people’s confidence and prepare them for the future, ensuring that they are not left further behind.’
Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said youth services help stop children from being criminally exploited.
‘The figures quoted in the YMCA report are alarming but sadly not surprising.
‘Barnardo’s has long warned about the need for urgent investment in youth services to help stop children from being criminally exploited and getting involved in knife crime.
‘Too many children are left vulnerable to gangs who promise protection, a source of income, and a sense of belonging that they’re not getting elsewhere.
‘Years of under-funding and the reduction in safe spaces has contributed to a ‘poverty of hope’ among young people. Covid-19 has made this even worse, with more young people struggling in families under financial pressure, and some slipping into the hands of exploitative gangs.
‘To turn the tide we must have long-term investment in children and young people’s services overall, which families can access before they reach crisis point.
‘The government is rightly reviewing the care system and early years support. We will need a commitment to multi-year funding, and new ways of working between the national government, local agencies and charities, to make sure that this translates into real change for children.’
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