The Government is failing young people and appears blind to the mounting pressures that local authorities are facing in delivering the most basic of youth services, Alex Cunningham has warned as he challenged Ministers to be more alert to the needs of young people for the right advice and services from qualified professionals.
Leading a debate in Westminster, the Stockton North MP highlighted the crisis in youth services. Despite being amongst the most important services that local authorities provide, levels of provision for young people across the UK have suffered horrendously under the Coalition, suffering cuts of around £260 million since 2010. And this week’s Autumn Statement contained nothing of cheer for young people.
Speaking during the debate, Alex said:
“Youth services have been hit by funding cuts of £60 million since 2012. Some 73 per cent of local authorities have reported being forced to reduce youth service spending during this time because of central government cuts, resulting in the loss of hundreds of youth centres and thousands of youth workers across the country.”
Keen to highlight how the worst effects of austerity are being concentrated amongst some of the most vulnerable communities in the country, the Labour MP said:
“We are all aware of the spending cuts local authorities are being forced to make as a result of reduced funding from central government. This is something being felt acutely in areas such as the North East, where 11 out of 12 councils will experience higher than average reductions in spending power for 2014/15 along with a five per cent funding reduction compared with 2013/14.
“Education Maintenance Allowance has been removed while support from the Access to Learning Fund and Student Opportunity Fund has been cut, Housing Benefit for under-25s has been cut, tuition fees have been trebled making Higher Education more expensive than ever before, and careers services have been slashed. … [T]hese cuts are severely short-sighted and add up to even greater problems as we move forward.”
Speaking following the debate, Alex said:
“I was glad to have been given the opportunity to raise this matter in Parliament, and hope that the Minister will rise to the challenge of ensuring that the whole of government works for our young people. However, with only the Minister present on the Government side, I don’t hold out much hope that the significance of this issue is being realised, let alone tackled.”