A new generation of latch-key kids

MORE young people will be drawn into anti-social behaviour and crime if swingeing cuts to Camden’s play services go-ahead, youth workers claim.

Road accidents are likely to rise and many parents will be forced to give up jobs to stay at home with their children, they also warn.

The depressing predictions followed the council’s announcement that play provision would no longer be universally available to residents.

Under a three-year plan to slash �2.8million from Camden’s play budget, finance bosses propose to only directly provide such services to vulnerable and disabled children. A small number of play centres will be contracted to the voluntary sector.

But Kim Mabbutt, of the Winchester Project in Swiss Cottage, which runs after-school clubs for youngsters aged four to 12, said these proposals would have a devastating effect – creating a generation of latch-key kids.

“Without any play provision they’ll have nowhere to go,” she said.

“The other thing is the parents because a lot of them are out working – where are they going to go to put their children in a positive, safe environment?

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“They’re going to have to not go to work and claim housing benefits.”

Mark Brown, a youth worker from Maiden Lane Youth Club in Cantelowes, added: “They’ve just sat down and said we’ll make some cuts and we’ll make them to the play services.

‘‘They need to do some consultations and they need to sit around the table again, get their calculators out and make the cuts somewhere else.

“In the long run, it’s going to cost them more money for those young people who they’re effectively abandoned – they’re going to get into crime and anti-social behaviour.

“And there’s going to be more injuries because you’re going to have eight or nine-year-olds running around the streets unsupervised while their parents are working.”

Resources boss Theo Blackwell agreed there was likely to be a financial and social cost resulting from the reduction in after-school and holiday play facilities.

“Ultimately, you will see a rise in the bill for anti-social behaviour, the bill in broken families and the bill for people who have to choose between work and family life,” he said.

But Cllr Blackwell defended the plans saying that, while he was sympathetic to parents, people had not yet grasped the scale of the �100million cuts the council had been told to make by the government.

He also stressed that Camden was one of the only boroughs in London which provided universal play services and they could no longer afford to do this.

“We are going to have to divert the money into other areas to help some of the most vulnerable families and elderly people who need the most care. It’s an absolutely terrible situation.”

The council is due to make the final decision on where its fiscal axe will fall in February.