One of the UK’s largest unions has warned the future of youth services across the UK is at risk, as a new report shows that crucial funding has been “relentlessly cut” by £387 million in just six years.
The report – A Future at Risk: Cuts in Youth Services – published by Unison today (Friday), found that half of councils have reduced spending on youth services, such as outreach support and advice for young people, with more than nine out ten youth workers (93%) saying their local authority employer has cut services since 2010.
Unison say the dramatic cuts have led to the loss of 140,000 places for young people and 3,600 youth work jobs, as well as the closure of more than 600 youth centres.
The report predicts £26 million more cuts to youth service spending over the next few years, costing a further 45,000 youth service places and 800 jobs. It also predicts more than 30 youth centres will be closed from 2016/17.
Unison says the cuts come at a time when young people are in desperate need of support. Nearly three in ten (28%) 16 to 17-year-olds and more than one in ten (12%) 18 to 24-year-olds are unemployed.
Four in five (77%) youth workers report rising levels of mental health issues among young people, while 83% say the impact of cuts on youth services have resulted in increased crime and anti-social behaviour.
Unison is calling for a range of reforms to the provision of youth services including 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.”