Boris Johnson faced a question on cuts to youth services at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy asked: “Can he explain why his Government have cut over 70 per cent of youth services in the past decade?”
The Prime Minister replied: “We invested in youth services and will continue to do so.”
In fact, spending on local youth services has fallen significantly since 2010, although the government is funding other projects aimed at young people.
Scale of cuts
In January this year, the YMCA charity produced an analysis of how much local councils spend on youth services, based on publicly available figures.
They found that spending has been cut by 71 per cent in real terms since 2010/11 – or almost a billion pounds:
This is similar to numbers put out in recent years by the Local Government Assocation (LGA), the national membership body for councils.
The LGA said last year that more than 4,500 youth worker jobs have been cut and 750 youth centres closed due to cuts.
Whose fault is it?
Councils get money from central government as well as collecting revenue from council tax and business rates.
They have some choice over which services they prioritise. But their overall spending power has fallen over the last decade, mostly due to cuts in central government grants.
Councils appear to be cutting back on youth services in order to concentrate funding on frontline services like children’s social care.
So while it’s councils who make most of the spending decisions, they are working with less money overall, largely thanks to cuts from central government.
Other youth spending
Government sources pointed FactCheck in the direction of other pots of money that have been made available for various schemes aimed at young people: £16.5m from the Youth Covid Support Fund, £200m in the form of the Youth Endowment Fund, which aims to stop children and young people getting involved in violence.
The government also funds the National Citizen Service, which focuses on outdoor education in the school holidays.
It’s not clear whether these projects are a like-for-like replacement for local youth services, or whether the money involved will make up for the scale of the cuts we have seen.
In 2019, the government committed to spending £500m over five years on something called the Youth Investment Fund – but none of the money has been spent yet.
A government source told us the fund “remains a manifesto commitment for this Parliament”.
“This year £30 million will be distributed so young people can access support from youth workers and positive activities out of school.”
The government says it is carrying out a review of the “out-of-school youth agenda” to ensure that “longer-term spending and programmes are suitable for the needs of young people emerging from the pandemic and levelling up opportunities across the country”.
A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Council-run youth services have seen funding reduced by more than two-thirds in real terms since 2010.
“Faced with significant rises in demand for urgent child protection work, councils are being forced to divert the limited funding they have left away from preventative work, including youth work, into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.
“The Government’s £500 million Youth Investment Fund – first promised in September 2019 – needs to be made available as soon as possible and all local councils need to have enough funding to ensure youth services are available for local young people.”
Research by Lauren McGaun