Dramatic fall in spending on youth services per child in England over the past decade

Youth services in England are spending less than a quarter of what they spent a decade ago per child, according to a YMCA analysis.

Funding cuts have seen youth services in England lose an estimated £1.1billion between 2010-11 and 2020-21, according to Department for Education figures on council spending.

Spending in England was £379million in the last financial year, down 74% from £1.48billion a decade earlier.

In Wales, spending fell but “not with the same ferocity” – from £54.5million to £37.7million over the same period.

In England, annual per capita spending for 5-17 year olds in England has seen a “dramatic drop” from £158 in 2010-11 to £37 in 2020-21 in real terms.

It fell from £72 to £48 in Wales over the same period.

In the East of England, overall spending has fallen by 63% in real terms over the past decade, compared to an 88% drop in the West Midlands and 83% in the North East.

The YMCA said its analysis shows a zip code lottery of funding variations that highlight “the localized fallout from a new global crisis”.

This is evident even between neighboring areas, with spending per child in Wandsworth in south London of £108.25 in 2020-21, compared to £29.77 in neighboring Merton.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England and Wales, said: “In addition to a decade of failed funding, young people have spent the past two years adjusting to periods of stay-at-home, to limited social interaction, upbringing anxieties and a whole host of worries like no generation before.

“Simultaneously for the sector, the pandemic has led to a change in the way youth services operate, putting significant pressure on their ability to support young people through these difficult transitions.

“All young people deserve access to services that can empower them to have a bright future.

“We cannot let location dictate these opportunities, and we should no longer expect youth service providers to remain in survival mode as their funding sources continue to be squeezed, or worse yet, completely dry up. Critical and commensurate investments are needed now.

Councilor Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people’s council, said limited funding for prevention work was being diverted to protect children in immediate danger.

She said: “Children must be at the heart of national recovery and we want to work with the government to fully invest in child and youth services, which is essential to address serious violence, to help avoid long-term unemployment, mental health issues and being lured into criminal activity, to ensure no one is left behind.

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