The youth sector has suffered massively at the hand of severe cuts. Local authorities throughout the UK, lacking directive or guidance from central Government, have enacted approximately half a billion pounds worth of reductions. Hundreds of youth clubs and other local services have been pared back to such a degree that the statutory youth service is all but reduced to a skeleton provision in some of the most deprived areas of the U.K. Those that are aware know only to well what a false economy these cuts are, a reduced local youth service will inevitably lead to all sorts of expensive repercussions.
Without a universal, open access youth service to support young people, particularly those most vulnerable, it will only be a matter of time before we see an increase in criminal activity, a rise in drug use, more STIs, teenage pregnancies, alcohol related anti-social behaviour, and even more youth unemployment and under-employment.
While these are demonstrably serious issues for young people and communities, it is also clear these issues will cost local authorities, governments and ultimately tax payers dearly, and it would be inherently more sensible to mitigate these financial and societal costs by investing upfront for robust preventative services.
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The past year has been a particularly tough one for the youth sector. Charities working with children and young people have come under fire following the closure of Kids Company and the difficult funding environment they operate in shows little sign of improving.
There are no easy answers for the sector. The global economy remains precarious, with the shadow of economic downturn in China hanging over stock and currency markets, and pushing oil prices down. As a result the UK Government remains pessimistic about growth prospects and committed to deficit reduction. Comprehensive statutory funding for youth services is fast being consigned to history and it is highly unlikely that we will see comparable levels of public investment return to the sector within the next ten years.
With this backdrop in mind, what should sector leaders be doing to preserve and enhance services for young people? First and foremost we must work together to agree priority areas and common goals. This will enable us to speak with one unified voice to influence policy and unlock new funding opportunities.
During the recent youth sector consultation led by UK Youth, NCVYS and Ambition there was much discussion about the challenges faced, but also a surprisingly high level of consensus around what the immediate priorities for the sector must be. We identified six main themes that came up repeatedly throughout discussions, written submissions and online feedback.
Read more about our findings and next steps