The future of Youth Services

November 29, 2010 4:08 pm

Youth EmploymentBy Rachel Reeves MP / @_rachelreeves_

The House of Commons last week debated the future of the Youth Service in a Westminster Hall Debate secured by Julie Hilling, Labour MP for Bolton West. Julie used the debate to voice her professional experience, used to convey the importance of youth services and its position as a Cinderella service, pleading with the government to ‘let Cinders go to the ball.’

Julie is absolutely right in her arguments.

It is a false economy to cut youth services where they are needed. Current spending is around £100 per head per annum on 13 to 19 year olds – interventions which cost less than £300m per annum.

That cuts are coming is undoubted – decisions are already being made and with local councils bearing a disproportionate amount of the deficit reduction burden it was to be expected that youth services would take a big hit.

In Leeds, the City Council is facing cuts to its budget by central government of 27% – and youth services are under threat as a result of an end to ring-fenced funding. There are lots of great services in the city which rely on dedicated staff and volunteers to educate and engage youngsters. The story is the same across much of the rest of the country.

In last week’s debate, I highlighted a local project as a great example of a youth service. Armley Juniors in West Leeds provides computer courses, football sessions and cookery classes to local kids. It offers the sole communal space for children on an inner city council estate – and a hugely valued facility for the whole community. When people across the political spectrum think about volunteering, it is groups like this that shine out as an example of what a big society should be – and these examples have been around a lot longer than David Cameron’s sound-bite.

In removing ring fenced funding for youth services, the government are risking more costs down the line in dealing with anti social behaviour and in wasted potential if local kids have nothing to motivate and inspire them – and in some cases keep them out of trouble.

The reality is that voluntary groups providing specialist services can’t operate for free. Most groups rely on government support and engagement. They can’t provide services on altruism and philanthropy – but they do provide services with real value. As well as putting youngsters on the right track, they are vital in creating soft skills on which employers heavily rely. Another local charity in Leeds West, BARCA, runs youth services, drug support and rehabilitation projects in West Leeds. Chief Executive Mark Law told me after reading the debate in Hansard that he is already seeing the impacts of government cuts and has had to cut back on services and lay off experienced staff. In the last few months BARCA has had to make cuts of 25% and next year has been told that their budget will decreased by a third. These cuts mean less intensive family support, cuts in youth work and cuts to the junior youth inclusion project which targets young people at risk of getting involved in crime.

Over fifty years ago, the last woman to represent Leeds in parliament said ‘our aim in education is to produce young people who can think for themselves, people who are self-reliant and feel confident to face the outside world.’ To do that today, we need voluntary groups to support the work of our schools and build a good, big society. And to achieve that for everyone regardless of whether they come from West Leeds or Witney, it requires support from the government.

The government finds it easy to cut projects that it has no experience of – regional development agencies, the School Sports Partnership and youth services. But the reality is that the cumulative impact of cuts will be to weaken the fabric of our communities and increase costs in the long term as we write-off a generation of the hardest to reach young people. In a quest to cut quickly and deeply the government is failing to look at the evidence of what investment and which services add value and which do not. The result will be bad decisions – for the economy and society.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Scotland Video SNP surge “is real” – Lord Ashcroft speaks ahead of Scottish polling announcement

    SNP surge “is real” – Lord Ashcroft speaks ahead of Scottish polling announcement

    Labour activists, MPs and strategists will be paying close attention to Lord Ashcroft’s polling of Scottish seats (which should be out in the next few days), but for a taster on that – and the impact of UKIP, watch this interview of Ashcroft from Sky News’s Joey Jones:

    Read more →
  • News Roy Hattersley defends Miliband over NHS election focus

    Roy Hattersley defends Miliband over NHS election focus

    Former Labour deputy leader Roy Hattersley has leapt to Ed Miliband’s defence, after the current leader received criticism from former ministers this week for relying on the NHS too much as an election issue. Alan Milburn and John Hutton made public their scepticism about Labour’s plans for the NHS, with former Health Secretary Milburn saying “major reform” was needed in the health service. Following Neil Kinnock’s call for an end to “sniping from behind”, Hattersley has also come forward to attack […]

    Read more →
  • News Wales Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy announces retirement

    Former Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy announces retirement

    Paul Murphy, MP for Torfaen, has announced he will stand down from Parliament in May. Murphy has represented the constituency for 28 years, since first being elected in the 1987 election. He served as Secretary of State for Wales twice, under both Blair and Brown: his first stint between 1999 and 2002 was followed by another 18 months in the role between 2008 and 2009. He also served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2002 and 2005, and […]

    Read more →
  • Featured We must ensure that disabled people get to cast their votes

    We must ensure that disabled people get to cast their votes

    By Stephen Twigg MP and Kate Green MP There are around 11 million disabled voters in the UK. In a few weeks, they will have the opportunity to go to the ballot box and have their say on the future direction of our country. Between now and May 7th, it is imperative that we do all was can to ensure their voice is heard. Our democracy is becoming increasingly inaccessible. Over the last year, as the Government have rushed the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing – and now’s the time to fight.

    The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing – and now’s the time to fight.

    Every day matters. Every single day between now and 7th May, thousands and thousands of Labour activists will be out on the doorsteps fighting this general election one street at a time. But through the cold and the rain and the dark nights, this fight isn’t just about the Labour Party, it’s about the millions of people we got into politics to represent. It’s about the people whose doors we knock on – the young woman worried about whether her […]

    Read more →