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Another APPG Report – another call for investment in youth services

MAY 23, 2019

It is not surprising that analysis by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Knife Crime, a group of over 40 MPs and Peers, has found that the areas suffering the largest cuts to youth spending have seen bigger increases in knife crime.

The APPG was was set up in response to the alarming rise in knife crime across the country and aims to develop cross-party consensus from parliamentarians around new approaches to tackling knife crime, with particular focus on prevention and early intervention.

As part of its research, the APPG studied budgets for youth services from 2014/15 to 2017/18. It also analysed knife crime data and concluded that the four areas worst-hit by youth spending cuts also saw some of the biggest knife crime rises but did highlight that comparison was not like for like as council and policing areas differ.

MP Sarah Jones, who chairs the APPG said youth services cannot just be "nice to have" and highlighted the need for investment in preventative services for young people that provided safe spaces to meet friends and the opportunity for personal and social development.

The APPG's research found the average council cut spending on youth services from 1.9m in 2014/15 to 1.2m in 2017/18 and said that in real terms this marked a decrease of 40%. But it also highlighted that some areas were worst hit, citing authorities such as Wolverhampton and the City of Westminster where youth services have been cut by 91% since 2014/15.

Despite Unite’s campaign to save the youth service, all but one of Wolverhampton's youth clubs was axed as part of £123m savings made by the authority in 2014, which saw 126 staff made redundant and was a cruel blow to the young people of Wolverhampton. The authority chose instead to invest into a £6million Youth Zone, backed by Wolves chairman Steve Morgan, which would cost £1m a year to run and would see the end of open access youth services in Wolverhampton.

Although direct comparison of the geographical areas covered by police forces and local authority boundaries was not possible, the APPG analysis suggests forces serving areas with the biggest cuts, such as West Midlands Police, the Metropolitan Police, Cambridgeshire Police, and Thames Valley Police, have also seen some of the highest increases in knife crime.

Whilst West Midlands Police has seen an 87% increase in knife crime offences since 2013/14, youth services in Dudley, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Shropshire, Sandwell, Coventry and Staffordshire have all suffered massive cuts that has seen the destruction of youth service provision in many areas. Within the West Midlands, Birmingham seems to be one of the only authorities still investing in an in-house youth service and it seems fitting that the knife angel, a 27ft sculpture made out of 100,000 knives that have been confiscated from police forces across the country, was moved to Birmingham today, located in Victoria Square, and will remain there for the next month.

The Chair of the APPG has called for the government to urgently review youth funding and consider a legal requirement for councils to provide certain services and this call has been echoed by Barnardo's and Redthread who jointly act as the group's secretariat.

Javed Khan, the chief executive of Barnardo’s said taking away youth workers and safe spaces to gather was creating a “poverty of hope” where children see no chance of a positive future.

John Poyton, chief executive of Redthread highlighted the need for government to develop a long-term strategy saying “Young people are on a vulnerable transition between childhood and adulthood and youth services are crucial in ensuring they are able to reach out to trusted professionals to ask for help at the earliest opportunity”.

National Officer for Community and Youth Workers in UniteSiobhan Endean welcomed the report and said "This is the second report published in the space of two months and published by an All Party Parliamentary Group, that recognises the true cost of cuts on the lives of young people and the need for greater investment in youth work. It also calls for a real commitment to support for youth services in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.”

She added “When youth services are cut, the lifelines available to young people are taken away. Young people need safe spaces, but when youth centres are shut down these safe places no longer exist. Youth work isn’t just about the game of pool or the turn on the XBox, it involves many layers. It is a distinct educational process with trusted adults supporting young people’s personal and social development – their values, beliefs, ideas and skills. Young people choose to start the journey, and youth workers are with them every step of the way.”

Thanking the APPG for highlighting the importance of youth work to the lives of young people she added “The report again demonstrates the need for real and proper investment in both open access youth services and preventative services. Cutting youth services is a false economy as crisis intervention is far more costly than preventative services. Local government has seen youth services an easy cut to make as they are not statutory. This must change and government must address the difficulties faced by local government in the forthcoming Spending Review.”

“Unite has campaigned on this issue for many years and its policy is clear. Government must legislate for a statutory youth service, with dedicated ring fenced funding, and provided by a core of fully qualified youth workers from the statutory and voluntary sector. This requires a massive investment in youth services and a reversal of the cuts that have decimated services for the current generation of young people."

Please see here for the blog ‘There really is No Time to Waste’ and the report from APPG on Youth Affairs.

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