Research released today by YMCA reveals that not only have funding cuts now reached £1.1bn (a real-terms fall of 74% since 2010/11) but annual spend per head on 5-to-17-year-olds in England has plummeted from £158 in 2010/11 to just £37 in 2020/21.
Investigating real-terms local authority spending on youth services, YMCA found that a decade ago, money spent per 5-to-17-year-old in Wales was £72 – less than half the amount in England (£158) at the time. Today the spend per-head in Wales (£48) is 30% higher than in England (£37).
Looking at local authority spend per head across the two countries, YMCA discovered a postcode lottery of funding variations, with Cardiff noted as the lowest-spending local authority in Wales at £18.81 per head. In England, seven local authorities did not report any expenditure on youth services to the Department for Education in the last financial year, and several more spent less than £15 per 5-to-17-year-old. At the other end of the spectrum, 15 local authorities spent more than £100 per head in 2020/21, five of which were in Wales and six in London.*
Analysing this new data, the difference even between neighbouring local authorities was stark, with spend per 5-to-17-year-old in Wandsworth in 2020/21 reaching £108.25, while in neighbouring Merton the figure was just £29.77. Similarly, Trafford’s reported £0 expenditure and Manchester’s £8.38 per young person offers jarring comparison against £122.74 in bordering Stockport.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales, said:
“As the longest provider of youth services in England and Wales, YMCA has tracked the real-terms decline in youth services funding over the past several years. However, these latest figures from 2020/21 are especially significant in not only highlighting the localised fallout of a new global crisis, but also the harsh reality of a generation and sector repeatedly devalued by devastating cuts.
“In addition to a decade of funding failures, young people have spent the past two years adjusting to periods of staying at home, limited social interaction, education anxieties, and a whole host of worries like no generation before. Simultaneously for the sector, the pandemic meant a shift in how youth services operated, placing significant pressure on their ability to support young people through these difficult transitions.
“All young people deserve access to the services capable of empowering them to achieve a bright future. We cannot let location dictate these opportunities, and we must no longer expect youth service providers to remain in survival mode as their funding streams continue to be squeezed, or worse still dry up entirely. Crucial and proportional investment is needed now.”
As the Government releases the first £10m of its long-awaited £500m Youth Investment Fund (YIF), YMCA is urging them to unlock further finance for areas in most critical need, thereby breathing new life into this vital sector through targeted programmes, universal youth services and experienced youth workers across England and Wales.