Siân Berry AM’s report on a decade of cuts to London’s youth services
06 August 2021
On 5th August 2021, Siân Berry AM published London Youth Service Cuts 2011-2021: A Blighted Generation. This is her latest, and most damming, report as it documents the dramatic decline in local authority funding for youth services in London boroughs over the last decade.
Rosemary Watt-Wyness, our Chief Executive said:
“It’s devastating to see how dramatic the losses have been for our youth organisations over the past decade.
Witnessing how the sector’s social and funding infrastructure has been decimated, first through austerity, and more recently by eighteen months of pandemic, when the sector has pulled out all the stops to keep their doors open, should fill us all with shame.
As Siân Berry’s excellent report highlights, we have lost over a third of our youth centres over the last decade. Is this really the legacy that the capital city of a global economy should be passing on to the next generation? How tragic that so many vital lifelines have been lost for so many young Londoners.
We must take these findings seriously, and act urgently to mitigate this blight on young lives, putting this next generation at the heart of London’s recovery.”
Key Findings in the Report
- There were 299 youth centres a decade ago. In 2021, there 133 have been closed across London
- The worst-affected borough is Newham, which has now lost 13 of its 18 centres that were open in 2019-20. The council hopes to regain four centres for 2021-22
Austerity cuts over a decade
- The average council budget for youth services in 2011-12 was £2.6 million, and this fell to just £1.1 million by 2020-21
- The decade shows a consistent picture of overall cuts: for the 15 councils for which there was have consistent data: there are 611 fewer youth workers in 2020-21 than there were in 2011-12.
- If all councils had been able to maintain budgets at 2011-12 levels, Londoners would have seen at least £242 million more invested in support for young people over the past ten years.
The situation in 2021-22
- 17 councils shared planned budgets: almost all forced to keep them level or cut them further, with the biggest cuts in Tower Hamlets and Sutton – which is cutting its general youth service budget completely.
- The largest cut in budget terms has been in Tower Hamlets, which invested £8.7 million in 2011-12, but has cut this to just £2.1 million this year.
Variations between boroughs
- Only two boroughs have completely removed their dedicated youth service budget: Waltham Forest council moved to a targeted model of youth support some years ago, and now Sutton council has made the same change.
- Merton and Islington councils have both maintained broadly stable youth service budgets over this time, while three boroughs have increased their budgets, all from a below average baseline
- Hackney Council currently has the largest annual youth service budget of any borough, at over £6 million
Cuts to youth workers
- In 15 councils for which there is consistent data, there are 611 fewer youth workers in 2020-21 than there were a decade ago
- A further six positions will be lost this year from those who responded
- Averages can help to illustrate the impact of these cuts at borough level. In 2011-12, the average council in London employed 48 full-time equivalent (FTE) youth workers, but by 2020-21 this had fallen to just 15.
Support for young women
- 26 councils responded to this question, and painted a mixed picture.
- 40 girl-specific service offered, however ten councils (Camden, Enfield, Hammersmith & Fulham, Islington, Kingston, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond, and Southwark) said they offer no specific services like this.
- Limited scope where available. 2 Boroughs had limited sports-specific offers: in Hounslow the only targeted service is This Girl Can, a Sport England campaign to encourage women to be more physically active. In Haringey’s only girl-specific service is a fitness group which is only open during term time and closed when restrictions came into force in March 2020.
Recommendations for more girl-led and girl-specific projects
- Ring-fenced funding for projects and support for girls and young women
- Projects for girls and young women in every borough that expand the horizons of women and do not add to gendered expectations.
You can find out more about previous versions of these reports here: 2019 and 2020.
Clare MacNamara, Policy Manager
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