Nearly a decade of austerity and cuts to the statutory and voluntary sectors are destroying youth services. Thousands of youth work jobs have gone, hundreds of youth centres shut down and thousands of youth work places lost. This is happening in part because many politicians and policy-makers, national and local, do not fully appreciate the subtle and long-term ways in which youth workers support young people and contribute to their development. There is also insufficient understanding of how, in the process, youth workers meet public policy goals such as responding to "anti-social behaviour" and keeping young people in education.
There are valuable resources available from across the youth sector which have been produced over the past ten years and can be used to describe the damage already done and to help demonstrate the benefits of youth work.
London’s lost youth services 2018 from Sian Berry provides figures from councils that show the total amount lost from youth services in London, which would have been spent in the last seven years if budgets had stayed at 2011-12 levels, is now £145 million. Annual cuts since 2011 now exceed £39 million.
UNISON’s research The Damage written in 2013, was based on data provided in response to a Freedom of Information request from 168 local authorities across the UK, and showed that youth services lost at least £60 million of funding between 2012 and 2014. This research was followed up in 2016 with A Future at Risk which warned that under a programme of austerity, the outlook for youth services was bleak and predicted that from 2016/17 there would be:
- at least £26m more cuts in youth service spending;
- 45,000 more youth service places removed;
- 800 more jobs lost;
- more than 30 youth centres closed.
The Future of Youth Work was published by Unite and focuses on what Youth Work is, what the Youth Service is and where it sits in the wider provision of young people's services.
Valuing Youth Work from the NYA is still a useful resource and contains case studies of local authority-funded projects in Birmingham, Devon, Hartlepool, Hounslow, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Rotherham and the Wirral. Each example shows how organisations and councils can work together to provide services covering health, citizenship, participation, and training and education, and the positive impacts such work has on young people.
The Benefits of Youth Work written in conjunction with LLUK and Unite and researched by staff at the National Youth Agency is slightly dated now but still widely used and sets out in simple terms the reasons why our work is important, why it is cost effective and how it makes a real difference to young people`s lives.
This is Youth Work by the In Defence of Youth Work campaign (IDYW) collected youth workers' accounts of youth work practice. These demonstrate its distinctive way of working with young people and the impacts this can have on lives of young people and their communities. IDYW has also been filming young people's own accounts of why they go to youth clubs and other youth work facilities and why they value their youth workers. With support from Choose Youth partners Unison and Unite, IDYW brought these stories together as a book and DVD.
You can watch the accompanying video here -