View from the chamber: Chancellor must invest in youth services as part of the recovery effort

Sian Berry is fighting to get funding to child services reinstated. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire

Sian Berry is fighting to get funding to child services reinstated. Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

London’s youth services are in crisis.

Councils have been under continued pressure to cut vital youth services through a decade of austerity but, amid the devastating effects of this pandemic, our young people need support from youth workers more than ever.

I have written to the chancellor ahead of the government’s upcoming spending review, to demand he reinvests fully in youth services as an essential part of building back better from this crisis.

I asked Rishi Sunak, not just to fund councils to bring youth services back to levels last seen before 2010, but provide for a service that ensures every young person has access to local, accessible and appropriate activities and youth worker support.In my work as a London Assembly member, I have been documenting and exposing dramatic cuts to youth services since the start of austerity, and I have continually called for the mayor to address the situation. In London since 2011, at least £35 million in annual funding has been removed from council youth service budgets, over 100 youth centres have closed, and more than 700 full-time equivalent youth worker jobs have been lost.

I am not alone in this. Many others are calling for youth funding, having also witnessed the impact of these cuts and the devastating ripple effect that hurts the whole community. Each individual youth worker provides support, advice and mentoring to many young people and the difference that can be made by this support is extraordinary.

The disruptions to education, jobs and prospects for the current generation of young people who are leaving school is unprecedented. The government has proved it can act decisively in an emergency, and the timing of the spending review could not be a better chance to put right past mistakes and build a better and brighter future.

Now is a crucial moment for the government to invest in the young people of this city. We need to support those most disadvantaged by the current crisis, providing more chances and better opportunities for the next generation of young people to thrive.