Mayor needs to help restore London’s lost youth services

London's lost youth services report coverMy new report shows councils have had to cut more than a third of their youth services since 2011, and will have to make more cuts next year unless the Mayor steps in.

The report – London’s lost youth services – shows that London council youth services have lost a third of staff and £22 million in funding cuts since 2011.

Government cuts have hit all London councils hard, and youth services have been put on the chopping block across our city as a result. My findings include that the average council has cut youth service funding by nearly £1 million since 2011, and that plans are in place to reduce 2017/18 budgets by another 25 per cent on average.

The impact of these cuts could be devastating. Good quality youth services help young people develop skills, be creative and live positive social lives, and make them less vulnerable to falling into crime or the exploitation of groups like gangs.

The Mayor does fund some youth initiatives through policing budgets, but these are mainly targeted at knife and gang crime, and many of them also depend on the general youth services that are seeing the deepest cuts being available once young people decide to make changes to their lives.

This Wednesday at Mayor’s Question Time, I’ll be asking the Mayor what he can do to help. He has a fund worth £18 million a year that puts £3 million into services for young people – the London Crime Prevention Fund – but it needs expanding. It was started in 2013 and recently renewed by the Mayor for four years, but only at the same level of funding as under Boris Johnson.

Saving youth centres and youth workers would genuinely help to improve young people’s lives in London and would also help achieve Sadiq Khan’s goal of real crime prevention.

My report , ‘London’s lost youth services’, is based on a freedom of information request to borough councils. It reveals that youth services, which are non-statutory and not protected from austerity cuts, have been cut back dramatically in the past five years.

Between 2011/12 and 2016/17:

  • Across London more than £22 million was cut from youth services budgets.
  • The average council in London has cut its youth service budget by nearly £1 million – an average of 36 per cent.
  • More than 30 youth centres have been closed.
  • At least 12,700 places for young people have been lost.
  • Council youth service employment has been reduced on average by 39 per cent – from 738 full-time equivalent staff across 20 councils to 452 in 2016/17.
  • Funding to voluntary sector youth work has also gone down – by an average of 35 per cent in councils that were able to provide data.

Half of the ten councils that provided information about future budgets were planning to make further cuts in 2017/18. On average 25 per cent of budgets would be cut from April, with the loss of at least three more youth centres and 24 more staff.

Read the full report here: London’s lost youth services

On 13 January, I visited Grove Park Youth Club in Brockley. This purpose-built 50-year-old facility was closed in 2013 by Lewisham Council as part of budget cuts. It was sad to see a facility like this closed and only occupied by property guardians, but there are moves to reopen it, which the Mayor’s funding could support.

I was being shown around by Rob Clayton, who is part of a local community effort that has formed a charity aimed at taking over and reopening the club. See more about the history of Grove Park Youth Club and the campaign to save it here: www.groveparkyouthclub.co.uk

Sian Berry with Rob Clayton at Grove Park Youth Club in Lewisham

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