Children’s social care – cut; family support services – cut; adoption services-cut; youth justice teams – cut; Sure Start centres – cut; child protection services – cut; and looked-after children services – cut.
Now you can add in youth services – but by 905 of local authorities by a total of £387m since 2010 and a picture of under-investment in young people becomes clear.
This is happening at a time when nearly 33 per cent of young people are at risk of poverty and 10 per cent have “material deprivation”.
In comparison, services for the elderly have barely been affected, with reductions of 2 per cent while 18 per cent of youth provision has been scrapped. You start to wonder how we can justify such a lack of interest in the future of our country.
Again and again surveys show early intervention, investment in education, early years support and youth services reap rewards. Young people who reach their potential through this support bring a significant financial return through increase taxes and lower benefits payments, but we seem to simply ignore them.
This data comes from a recent report by Unison, A Future at Risk, and whilst there is a political bias, the facts are indisputable.
Our own experience at Creative Youth Network reflects the increasing complexity of problems faced by young people coming through our doors because statutory services simply cannot cope with the demand.
North Somerset has completely cut youth services and relies almost entirely on parish councils and charities to keep them going. There are more cuts threatened in Bristol, BANES and South Glos where central government is imposing further and further funding restrictions.
Youth services are not statutory and therefore often bear the brunt when times are hard. Yet many local authorities are seeing a rise in the costs for social services, youth offending and other ‘high end’ support.
Austerity worked well in the beginning, forcing all of us to prove our impact, be efficient and ditch the projects that weren’t worthwhile. But austerity is now doing nothing more than moving the problem ‘downstream’. Children and young people not getting support soon enough leads to ruined lives and higher costs to the state in the long run. Unless we stop this disinvestment we, as a country, will be reaping the ills for a long time to come.
Bristol is about to consult on the future of its youth services at the same time as making £36m of cuts to its budget. There is a real danger that young people in Bristol will not get the support they need leading to ruined lives and extra costs in the future.
Sandy Hore-Ruthven is CEO of Creative Youth Network, building relationships with young people from all backgrounds across the South West to help them reach their own potential and live fulfilling lives.