YMCA issues call to safeguard youth services following long-term cuts

Funding for youth services has fallen by 70% since 2010/11 in England and Wales, according to a new report from the YMCA.

The report found that a recent real-terms funding increase of three percent came nowhere near to reversing the £1.1bn of overall cuts to the sector over the last fourteen years.

The YMCA issued an urgent call to the government for a united effort to safeguard the future of youth services and young people.

Youth services help nurture the confidence, resilience and skills of young individuals, providing a safe haven within the community. But the report uncovered a postcode lottery in funding – while Yorkshire and the Humber and London received increases in youth services expenditure of 15% and 11% respectively over the past year, the West Midlands experienced further cuts of 15%, followed by East Midlands with 10%.

Drastic underfunding has seen the number of council-run youth centres fall by 53% in England (from 917 to 427) and 62% in Wales (from 233 to 88) since 2011/12.

The YMCA said the current situation showed the urgent need for increased promotion of pathways into youth work roles. Despite recent government funding directed at specific youth club buildings, there is a pressing need for additional support for training and sustaining well-qualified youth workers. Since 2012/13, there has been a 35% reduction in full-time equivalent (FTE) youth workers employed by local authorities in England, and 36% in Wales.

The absence of a coordinated strategy across government departments has led to fragmented and insufficient funding for targeted youth services.

The YMCA’s general election manifesto sets out the following recommendations:

  1. Sustained and long-term revenue funding to bolster universal and open-access youth services, catering to all young people throughout the year
  2. Establish a cross-departmental strategy for youth services, fostering a long-term vision for nationwide provision
  3. Enforce a duty on councils to ensure all young people can access youth services in their respective areas, with necessary government support and resourcing

‘Investing in the potential of our nation’s young people is critical for building a brighter future. Unfortunately, the length and nature of these funding cuts have taken their toll on youth support systems, leaving thousands without opportunities or a safe place to build confidence, connection, and valuable skills. The youth sector stands ready in working together with the next government to break down departmental silos and ensure that every young person has access to the essential lifeline of universal youth services, regardless of their circumstances or locality,’ said Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales.

‘Youth services are not a luxury but the bedrock of a prosperous future. Now’s our chance to envision a society where every young individual receives the support needed to thrive. It’s not just an investment in youth services; it’s an investment in the heart and soul of our nation’s young people.’

Image: YMCA

More on this topic:

Councils forced to cut spending on services for vulnerable children

Children’s social care a ‘tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape’


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