Accessing quality youth work is vital

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Accessing quality youth work is vital

Accessing quality youth work is a vital part of the lives of millions of young people across the country. This has been the case over many years, in many forms and I hope it will continue to be so. But, as many reading this will know, there is a significant threat to the ability of youth workers across our land to continue to do their important work in inspiring, helping, motivating and encouraging young people. That threat, of course, is the ongoing cuts to non-statutory, out-of-school youth services.

In practically every part of this country local authorities-blaming the funding settlement handed down to them by the national government-have taken the axe to these services on an unprecedented scale. In all too many parts of our country this has seen services lost, youth clubs closed, and targeted and universal youth work ended.

Government, both local and national, who have allowed-indeed willed-this to happen need to be asking themselves very serious questions about the sense of withdrawing services which are accessed by so many young people, including some of the least well-off and most vulnerable in our society. Because if they did ask themselves such questions, if they reflected on their actions, they would surely recognise that it makes no economic, social or any other kind of sense to do what they’ve done.

I recognise that the majority of these cuts have taken place since 2010, with a Youth Services spending having fell by 36% from £1.2bn in 2010/11 to £791m in 2012/13.* It’s, therefore, unsurprising that between 2012 and 2014 around 350 youth clubs closed down.

My party’s Ministers were in power, as part of the Coalition government, from 2010 to May this year and, therefore, need to take some of the responsibility for the financial settlement which local authorities say have led to them making these cuts. However, local authorities can’t shirk their own responsibilities for their own decisions in terms of where they’ve decided to pass the cuts on to. A cynic might even suggest that youth services have seen these cuts because young people (those aged 18 and over) are not a large voting block and, therefore, there’s unlikely to be a ‘comeback’ politically for such decisions.

This is one of the reasons why, whenever I go into schools, colleges and universities to speak I encourage young people to become politically active and to use their democratic right whenever they have the opportunity. Very sadly, it may only be when young people (I hope, at some point, from sixteen as a supporter of Votes at 16) become a large voting block that those in power-in both local and national government-will stop dumping on them. At next week’s Liberal Democrat national Autumn Conference, taking place in Bournemouth, I’ll be moving a motion calling for an urgent review of youth services and for them to refunded and revitalised wherever possible.

I’m also hoping there’ll be an amendment to the motion calling for the funding of youth services to be put on a statutory footing, meaning local councils have to finance them. This would still give youth workers the flexibility they need, as professionals, to decide which kind of approach is best in terms of particular young people but would ensure the funding is their for it. I’ve also recently co-founded a new group within my party-Lib Dem Friends of Youth Services-to campaign for decently funded youth services and to champion youth work and youth workers.

You can follow us on Twitter via: @LDFOYS.

If there’s particular issues you’d like us to focus on/take up please do get in contact with us. Young people, via representative bodies including the British Youth Council, have made a call for well-funded youth services one of their top priorities. Government at all levels must listen to that call…and take action.

  • Mathew Hulbert is Co-founder of Lib Dem Friends of Youth Services and, from 2011 to 2015, was a Councillor on Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council in Leicestershire and its elected member Children and Young People’s Champion. 
  • He can be followed on Twitter via: @HulbertMathew

* http://byc.org.uk/campaigns/general-election-2015/our-parliament-our-vision-2015-2020.aspx

Views and Opinions expressed in this article are from the authors own and it does not reflect YWN views in any form or shape. youthworknews is not affiliated with any political parties whatsoever. We will provide a voice for anyone who is passionate about youth work. 

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