A report released today by YMCA reveals that one in four young people (25%) feel so afraid of gangs they are unable to spend time with friends outside of school. This comes as more than half (55%) feel that a primary purpose of youth services should be to keep young people off the streets, however, only 50% of young people were able to identify any youth services near them.
The knock-on effect was that young people (32%) raised concerns that spending time with friends outside of school was limited as they did not feel safe on the streets. They also said that fear of being a victim of crime (22%) and knife crime specifically (17%) stopped them spending time with friends away from school. This comes as almost a fifth (18%) wanted more youth crime interventions locally.
However, youth services are not just about preventing crime. Additional findings revealed that a third of young people (33%) have concerns about their future, with the opportunity to develop new skills (56%) and help improve confidence and self-esteem (55%) listed among the top reasons why youth services are important to them. However, the main reason highlighted was the chance to have fun and make friends (57%), something that should be fundamental to the life of every young person.
Almost a third (29%) said they do not have an adult outside of their family who they trust to talk to about their problems, and 29% said they have nowhere to go to socialise outside of school.
Youth services offer a vital lifeline within local communities, providing young people with support, advice and intervention, and yet as funding continues to decline, more and more young people find themselves alone and without anywhere safe to go. Research released by YMCA earlier this year uncovered a 70% real-terms decline in funding across England and Wales since 2010.
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England & Wales, said:
“While young people are forced to bear the brunt of drastic and increased cuts, they are expected to do so quietly and without consequence.
“These findings show that what they are crying out for are the very things youth services are specifically designed to provide. Every young person deserves a safe space, a trusted adult and the opportunity to enjoy being young. Young people are telling us what they need – in their own words – and in order to support them now and in the future, they must be listened to and acted upon.”
To help make sure the voices of young people are heard, YMCA is asking the public to help make them the central focus of government action. By reinvesting in youth services funding and introducing a national youth services strategy, local authorities would be able to deliver necessary youth services locally to meet the needs of young people in their community.
YMCA asks the public to show their commitment by signing a petition and raising the issue of youth services with their local MP.
You can download the research, Safe Space, here.