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Youth services are not a luxury and governments must commit to greater funding

YOUTH services are not a luxury, says advocacy group YMCA, as it calls for greater funding commitments from the next government.

The organisation estimates that cuts in recent years have seen thousands of young people miss out on opportunities to build confidence and skills.

It said that in the past decade, the number of local authority-run youth centres fell by 53 per cent in England and 62 per cent in Wales, based on its research and data gathered by the public services union Unison.

YMCA also highlighted a decline in staffing, with a 35 per cent reduction in full-time youth workers employed by local authorities in England and just over a third in Wales since 2012.

The YMCA’s On The Ropes report noted that, with “such severe budgetary constraints” as seen in recent years on councils, “the universal youth services offering may be the easiest area to reduce in a children’s services budget.”

“This should not be a choice councils have to take — all young people should have year-round access to a safe space they can access easily, and with the support of trusted adults who can help them set solid foundations in their development,” the report said.

YMCA chief executive Denise Hatton said: “Investing in the potential of our nation’s young people is critical for building a brighter future.

“Unfortunately, the length and nature of these funding cuts have taken their toll on youth support systems, leaving thousands without opportunities or a safe place to build confidence, connection and valuable skills.

“The youth sector stands ready in working together with the next government to break down departmental silos and ensure that every young person has access to the essential lifeline of universal youth services, regardless of their circumstances or locality.”

She insisted youth services “are not a luxury but the bedrock of a prosperous future.”

A Local Government Association spokesperson said councils continue to face significant funding cuts and demand pressures and youth services have faced cost-saving reductions as a result.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said local authorities must ensure access to youth services and that the government is delivering an above-inflation increase in funding for councils to over £64bn for 2024-25.

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