Youth workers being sacked–centres being closed

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Youth from all over Britain lobbying parliament against the coalition government’s cuts to youth funding and closures of youth centres
Youth from all over Britain lobbying parliament against the coalition government’s cuts to youth funding and closures of youth centres

GOVERMENT cuts plunge youth work into crisis, warns a Unison report.

More than 2000 youth workers have been axed and 350 youth centres closed since 2012 as a direct result of coalition government cuts, a new report by Unison has found.

The study, released ahead of International Youth Day, reveals a staggering 41,000 youth service places for young people have been lost, while 35,000 hours of outreach work by youth workers have been removed.

The United Nations’ International Youth Day is celebrated on August 12 each year to recognise the efforts of the world’s youth in enhancing global society.

The research is based on FoI data collected from 168 local authorities across the UK, and a survey of Unison members working in youth services.

It reveals that youth services lost at least £60m of funding between 2012 and 2014. 73% of local authorities surveyed revealed they had scaled back youth service spending because of central government cuts.

The overall picture shows a reduced level of service, provided by staff who are more thinly spread and unable to work as productively as in the past.

The report says: ‘Youth services are among the most important services that local authorities provide, and youth workers are in many senses the unsung heroes of their communities. . . The plight of the young people whom youth services support is clear.

‘Spending cuts have harmed young people and their prospects in a number of ways. Cuts in benefits have meant that many young people from poorer backgrounds have struggled, even when they are in work, with rising housing costs and reduced housing benefit combining to make it increasingly difficult for young people to get a decent start in their adult lives.

‘Support for young people wishing to pursue educational opportunities in England has been obliterated as a result of the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

‘The scrapping of the EMA is likely to have had a particular impact on young black men, and young people from poorer backgrounds, who relied on the EMA for some level of subsistence while they worked towards qualifications.

‘Meanwhile, the trebling of tuition fees for higher education, to £9000, has presented another barrier to educational opportunities for young people.

Young people are far more likely to be unemployed than those in older age groups. In September-November 2013, 36% of 16-17 year olds and 18% of 18-24 year olds in the UK were unemployed, compared to 5% of 25-49 year olds and 4% of 50-64 year olds.

‘Youth unemployment has risen significantly in recent years, and this is particularly true among certain groups. For example, by 2012, more than half of young black men available for work were unemployed, compared to around a quarter in 2008.

‘Meanwhile, the government’s decision to wind up the Connexions career service, replacing it with a duty for schools to provide careers guidance, but without providing any funding, has left young people with completely inadequate careers advice.

‘A Unison survey in 2013 found that the majority of schools had reduced their careers advice, and many rely on over-worked teachers to provide it, rather than careers experts. Research by the University of Derby found that of 144 local authorities, only 15 would maintain a substantial careers service.

‘Youth workers, through the wide range of activities they engage in, and the deep and lasting relationships they build with young people, are in a unique position to support young people in all of these areas and many more . . .

‘But as this report makes clear, youth services have suffered massive cuts, and the vast contribution youth workers make to young people and society in general is being lost. Cuts in youth service spending.

‘Unison’s research, based on data provided in response to a Freedom of Information request from 168 local authorities across the UK, shows that youth services lost at least £60 million of funding between 2012 and 2014.

• More than 2000 jobs have been lost in that period

• Around 350 youth centres have closed as a result of the cuts

• 41,000 youth service places for young people have been cut

l At least 35,000 hours of outreach work by youth workers have been removed.

‘Over the two years from April 2012, at least £60 million of funding was withdrawn from the UK’s youth services.

‘Of the 168 local authorities that responded to our FoI request, 122, or 73%, said they had cut youth service spending.

‘These cuts are part of a longer term trend since 2010. 93% of the respondents to our survey of members said that their local authority had cut youth service spending since 2010, and earlier research by Unison has found that youth service spending was cut by £62m in 2010/11 and £137m in b2011/12.

‘This makes the total since 2010, £259m. The size and nature of the cuts have varied from place to place, as different local authorities explore different ways of making savings.

‘But some authorities stand out. In Essex, youth service expenditure by the County Council had fallen to £4.7 million in 2012/13, following a cut of £3.7m, or 44%.

‘Similarly, Surrey County Council had a youth service budget of £2.5m in 2012/13, having been cut by £1.9m, or 43%. Cuts of this magnitude continued the following year, 2013/14.

‘For example the London Borough of Havering cut its youth service budget for that year by £1.4, to £2.2m – a reduction of 39%.

‘Warwickshire, meanwhile, having cut its budget by £600,000 in 2012/13, made a further cut of £1.4m in 2013/14. This represented a reduction of more than half of its youth service budget in a single year, and a cut from £3.1m to £1.1m across the two-year period.

Going, going, gone . . . cuts since 2012

‘What do youth services look like as a result of these cuts?

Local authorities have given us some revealing figures about the loss of services since 2012.

‘More than 2000 jobs have been lost in that period (1300 or more part-time roles and more than 700 full-time roles). Around 350 youth centres have closed as a result of the cuts.

‘An incredible 41,000 youth service places for young people have been lost. And at least 35,000 hours of outreach work by youth workers have been removed.’

The report’s conclusions are: ‘Unison believes that, like other vital public services, youth services should be fully funded to meet the needs of the diverse range of young people in our society.

‘The benefits they provide for young people, their communities and UK society should be properly recognised. The importance of human relationships, trust and confidence-building in youth work need to be better understood.

‘And the youth workers and youth support workers providing the services should be fairly rewarded, with decent pay and job security, so that they can concentrate on supporting young people and helping them improve their lives.

‘Unison understands that local authorities have had their funding slashed by the current UK government, with more than £11 billion of funding for local authorities cut by 2016.

‘Local authorities clearly have tough decisions to make when it comes to how to spend their money. However, youth services provide vital support to young people, with so many broader benefits for society – such as reducing unemployment, improving the take-up of education, reducing substance abuse, cutting crime and anti-social behaviour, and improving community cohesion.

‘The cuts in youth services need to be reversed. Clearly, a complete change of course is needed.’