Monday, 10 October 2011

Protest against cuts to save the youth of today - Lobby at Westminster on 25th October

Picture by Choose Youth

This summer saw the worst civil disturbances seen in Britain in the last 30 years. Despite those being involved being described by the Prime Minister as “purely criminal”, it is widely accepted that a primary cause of the disturbances, a reaction to the shooting of Mark Duggan, was the fact that thousands of young people living in some of the poorest communities in Britain are feeling both alienated and excluded from society. Public sector cuts to youth service are a false economy, and will cost the country more in the long run.

That is why BARAC UK (Black Activist Rise Against Cuts) is supporting the forthcoming Parliamentary lobby of Parliament organised by Choose Youth, an umbrella campaigning alliance of over 30 national youth organisations that are seeking to stop the devastating massacre of youth services taking place across the country.

The Lobby will take place on 25th October at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster from 11am to 4.30pm.

We ask that you join the lobby and help us to convince MPs that the cuts to youth services are short sighted and must stop. Supporters are being asked to arrange to meet with their MP as well as write a letter of support. By visiting the Choose Youth website, supporters can find template letters and guidance in how to lobby your MP and help organise people to attend.

This summer highlighted just how important front line youth services are to communities. Every young person, regardless of their background or where they live, should be entitled to high quality youth work, delivered by trained professionals, as it helps their personal and social development, informal learning, ability to play an active part in their local community, and supports them to have fun in a positive constructive way.

Our youth service, which has historically been a partnership of local authority and voluntary sector providers, is far too good to lose to spending cuts and urgently needs investment to tackle the new challenges that young people in the UK are facing, such as youth unemployment and barriers to further and higher education. As local authorities cease or drastically cut their youth services, in response to spending cuts, a crisis has developed. Not only is the service lost, but years of professional expertise and partnership working and expertise between the statutory and voluntary sectors is also being lost too.

MPs need to take urgent action to stop the modern youth service being pulled apart by the devastating spending cuts being made to youth service provision, the biggest cuts to any public service. The LGA’s own Council Budgets Spending and Saving Survey 2011 reported that one in five councils said that after central services, the service most often targeted for proportionally greater savings in 2011/12 was ‘services for young people.’

A survey by the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services in February 2011 found youth service cuts averaged 28%, but some authorities were cutting services by 70%, 80% and even 100%. Spending on youth services in England has fallen from £397.6m in 2006/07 to £350 million in 2009/10; this is equivalent to just £77 per young person aged 13-19 and even this paltry sum is being squeezed. Those areas with high Black and ethnic minority populations are seeing some of the largest percentage cuts.

Cuts to young people’s services are a very false economy and will lead to higher costs elsewhere. These are not just services to meet immediate needs today. They are investment in preventing more costly interventions tomorrow. The Audit Commission estimated that a young person in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer over £200,000 by the age of 16 but one who is given support to stay out costs less than £50,000.

The Government’s National Citizen’s Service (NCS) six-week initiative will not fill the gap created by youth service cuts. A summer placement for 16 year olds cannot substitute for youth services operating for 365 days a year. Choose Youth believes that existing youth services should take funding priority over new initiatives. We support the Education Select Committee’s recommendation spending cuts to youth services should be proportionate and that the NCS, if retained, must be significantly amended to form accreditation for existing programmes. Moreover, the Government should protect additional funds currently earmarked for the NCS and divert them into year round youth services.

It has been estimated by the Education Select Committee that the cost of the NCS will surpass £350m each year even if only half of 16 year olds take up the scheme. This far outstrips the current cost of all year-round provision. While NCS costs around £1,182 per young person for its six-week stint, spending just £350 a year on each young person would mean all young people could take part in positive leisure time activities.
We are putting out a call for all communities to come together and defend the youth service and ask that you become actively engaged in seeking to support the lobby and lets send a clear and resolute message to our MP’s. The future of our young people is too important to be left to politicians.

Lee Jasper

(Originally posted at OBV