Labour will unveil its vision for a universal youth service on Tuesday, as fresh research by the party reveals that youth services have been decimated by £1bn worth of cuts.
‘Only Young Once’ sets out Labour’s plan to rebuild youth services across the country. The party says its public health approach can address the many challenges faced by young people today – including rising levels of knife crime and county lines, mental illness, loneliness and exam pressure.
Labour intends to introduce a youth service guarantee, backed by legislation to ensure that every young person in the UK has access to youth work in their local community. From arts and culture to sport and recreation, these services will provide young people with extra-curricular activities, building aspiration and fostering community engagement.
The party also wants to create a youth services fund to reverse the damage inflicted on youth programmes by nearly a decade of Tory austerity. In England alone, 750 youth centres have been closed since 2012 and 14,500 youth and community work jobs have been lost since 2008.
Labour’s scheme would also include resources for training and recruiting highly skilled youth workers, who would be able to signpost young people in need of further services.
Launching ‘Only Young Once’, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to say: “The experiences of our youth can shape our entire future lives. Our young people should be supported in adolescence, a time that should be as full of wonder and as free from trouble as possible. With each young person we have just one chance to get it all right.
“The cuts to public services over the last decade have hit young people particularly hard. Life for young people in Britain today is far harder than it needs to be, and worse in many ways than it was for previous generations.
“We need local youth services across the whole country. We need services that can meet the complex challenges faced by young people today. We need services that will nurture and empower young people to improve their own lives.”
The introduction of ‘Only Young Once’ follows the party’s consultation on youth services launched in June 2018. The consultation drew on evidence from 60 expert policy submissions, surveys of young people and discussions with organisations in the youth services sector.
Commenting on the announcement, shadow minister for youth affairs Cat Smith said: “There are far too many young people today growing up with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to speak to about their lives.
“Young people deserve role models – someone who can build their aspirations, empower them to recognise their strengths, and spot the emergence of anti-social behaviour and divisive ideologies before they become social problems.
“Labour will restore a nationwide youth service, built for the many young people who represent our future, not just for the few young people requiring youth justice interventions.”