London STILL losing youth services

My latest report shows that, after nearly a decade of austerity, councils in London are still being forced to take money out of vital youth services.

My research this year shows that, once again, young people are finding it harder to access the help and support that youth services and youth workers provide:

  • £34 million has been removed from council youth services budgets since 2011-12
  • 101 youth centres have closed
  • 733 youth worker jobs have been lost
  • A further £2.2 million has been lost from youth service budgets in 2019-20 budgets, compared with 2018-19

For the first time, I asked councils about services for LGBTQIA+ young people and found patchy provision across London, with some councils not providing any support at all.

I also looked at how the loss of frontline provision of youth services has affected the numbers of children being referred to specialist children’s services.

The proportion of London children referred has risen every year since 2011, with London suffering much worse than England as a whole.

Today I said:

Cover of 2020 Youth Services report“This is my fifth report looking at the crisis in London’s youth services, and despite the welcome response from the Mayor in setting up the Young Londoners Fund, the picture continues to worsen.

“Today it is published in the context of the coronavirus crisis, during which youth clubs, community centres and other council services have shut their doors, and the future of youth services is more uncertain than ever. Meanwhile young people face a crisis of opportunity and lost jobs and incomes, and need the kind of mentoring, moral support and community provided by youth work more than ever.

“Each pound taken out of a budget, each youth worker that is no longer employed and each youth centre that closes its doors has a massive impact and a devastating ripple effect that hurts our whole community.

“Central Government cannot continue to leave our young people without the vital support that they need. Both they and the Mayor need to help councils to not just stop the reductions, but to restore youth services back to how they were before.”

The data from today’s report reflects council plans for funding through in this financial year, made before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mayor’s recent pledge for an additional £2.1 million to support young Londoners who have been most impacted by the coronavirus lockdown is a welcome contribution and will help youth organisations provide support this summer to the most vulnerable young people.

However it will still not go anywhere near to closing the long-term gaps that continue to grow.[2]

Read the report in full here

Watch my YouTube report here:

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, council budgets are likely to be in an even worse state than they were when the research for this report was conducted.

The research finds that the largest reductions to youth service budgets from 2018-19 to 2019-20 was in Lewisham were the budget fell by £1.1 million and Kensington and Chelsea where the budget fell by £449,140.

Lewisham is also among the 16 councils that can tell us about their budget plans for 2020-21. These councils are collectively planning to remove a further £597,802 of funding in their budgets for next year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic this is likely to be a lot higher.

To try and support young people through the fall in youth service funding, Sian has been lobbying the Mayor to boost his Young Londoners Fund and extend it for future years, most recently taking up Sian’s proposal for £25 million of additional money for programmes for young Londoners [3].

Rosemary Watt-Wyness, Chief Executive of London Youth, also commented on my research, saying:

“This report and its predecessors provide us with an invaluable insight into the challenges facing young Londoners and the organisations that support them, now further compounded by the impact of COVID-19.

“At a time when young Londoners are facing such a range of complex challenges to being happy, healthy, safe and skilled, there are 733 fewer youth workers supporting them. That represents over a million hours of learning and growing, of talking and building trusted relationships, and of having fun in safe places in one year. 78 per cent of youth workers in our network reported they were now engaging with fewer young people than pre- lockdown, with 73 per cent reporting a negative impact in young people’s mental health during the same period.

“Young Londoners need a healthy and sustainable youth sector with long-term funding and support for high-quality community youth organisations, now more than ever.

“There are huge disparities in youth service budgets between different local authorities, with some London boroughs spending more than ten times as much per young person. Strengthened guidance and ringfenced funding would end this lottery for services that young Londoners face based on where they grow up.

“Every young Londoner, no matter their background or which part of London they live in, deserves to have high-quality, open-access services within their community.”