Cutting youth services is a false economy

editorial image

J.M. Barrie in his play The Admirable Crichton wrote “I’m not young enough to know everything” and there’s certainly a lot to learn when you’re young. How to make friends; how to make decisions; how to take care of yourself and your community. Arguably the most important lesson is how to overcome barriers to achieve your potential.

However not all young people have someone who can support them; and that is where youth services make all the difference.

A young person might be suffering from grinding poverty or mental health problems.

They might need to escape a difficult situation at home or want to meet others who understand their disability.

Youth services provide a safe space preventing young people from falling into isolation, exclusion and problems as an adult.

Regardless of family situation or income, a young person can develop, grow and learn. It is for these reasons that in office Green Councillors protected these vital services.

By the end of 2017, some parts of the city will have lost community policing, their GP surgery and now potentially youth work too.

What does it say about our belief in young people, if existing youth services are cut to the bone too? In the Labour council budget proposals almost 80 per cent of the total budget for youth services will be cut. Like far too much of Tory austerity Britain all that will grow in its place is deepening unfairness.

This money was supposed to be distributed in an official contract for youth service provision that voluntary sector services, already stretched, have spent weeks applying for.

Contracts were issued for the youth service on November 1 only to be arbitrarily pulled on 23rd.

Youth workers will have worked on applications for funds that now no longer exist.

This, and associated legal fees, plus council officer time, costs public money. Waste at a time of serious need.

Many of the staff and young people using these vital voluntary and community sector services discovered the fate of their services through the media, rather than through the necessary consultation they deserved.

The Youth Collective provides everything from support for teenage pregnancy, substance misuse and sexual health. Sadly, as ever, if you happen to be disabled, an ethnic minority or LGBT you will be disproportionately hit- once for being young and twice for being marginalised.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that many of these young people cannot vote – so cuts are made to a voiceless group who can’t vote out the monsters in Westminster robbing them of vital services.

I was alarmed to hear that the council’s Early Help team- set up to prevent costly, later intervention will suffer a 40 per cent cut.

Stretched social workers are angry because they recognise this is a false economy.

What of the council’s commitment to the Fairness Commission which has asked the council to abandon cuts to early help because of the price tab we pick up later.

A commitment that surely lies in tatters at the end of this week?

The thing is, young people grow up. Opportunities that are denied to them now - access to help, support and peer friendships- will build the barriers that in the future, will be just too high to climb. There is no better ‘savings account’ for the community than investing in young people. What does it say about us if we remain silent if support is removed for them now?

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convener of the Brighton and Hove City Council Green Group