Today Labour will begin consulting on a pledge to implement a statutory service for young people.
Cat Smith, Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, will host a roundtable discussion in Westminster this afternoon with representatives from Unite, Unison and key youth organisations including ChooseYouth.
Currently councils are under no obligation to provide a youth service. The area is one of the first to face swingeing cuts under the Conservative government’s austerity measures, which have seen local authorities experience unprecedented funding reductions.
New analysis by Labour shows that total spending on services for young people has been cut by £765m over the last six years. According to the research, net expenditure on youth services reached £1,122,973 in 2010/2011, but the figure has now fallen to £358,304.
Unison’s 2016 report, A Future at Risk, found that funding had been reduced by £387m since the Tories took power. It estimated that the budget squeezes had led to the closure of over 600 youth centres, taking away nearly 140,000 places for young people.
A statutory service would guarantee young people across the country access to youth provision and facilities.
Cat Smith said: “Years of damaging Tory cuts and the systematic removal of youth services has left a generation of young people without the opportunity to play a full part in our communities.
“The need for a statutory duty for every local authority to provide a minimum level of youth provision has never been stronger, which is why Labour will consult on the implementation of a statutory youth service.
“Rebuilding our youth service requires urgent action and fresh thinking. We look forward to working young people, youth workers and communities as we prepare for government.”
Last week Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell confirmed he wanted to include a commitment to making youth services statutory in Labour’s manifesto for the next general election.
In 2011, the government’s own research into the August riots that year noted that young people felt targeted by spending cuts with the ending of Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA) and services cutback.
The report published by the Cabinet Office concluded that youth club closures and wider lack of youth provision had been a factor in the riots.