A major conference organised by campaigning public services union UNISON, will today (18 November) be told that mass closures of youth centres across Wales means we are failing a generation of young people. The trade union has revealed spending by Welsh local authorities on youth services in the last four years has been cut by £6.1m. In that time, more than 100 youth centres have closed and 360 jobs have been lost. Two-thirds of the job losses have been part-time jobs mainly staffed by women.
Welsh councils have been under pressure to make huge savings because of the severity of UK Conservative government spending cuts. The conference’s unprecedented gathering of Welsh academics and youth workers will map out an alternative, positive vision for the sector. It will argue that cutting youth work funding deprives young people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, of support which helps them build confidence, learn basic life skills and access education, employment and training. Seven youth centres have closed this year alone.
The trade union will say young people desperately need our support and 28 per cent of 16-17 year olds and 12 per cent of 18-24 year olds are unemployed and not in education. Youth work experts directly link service cuts to an increase in anti-social behaviour and crime.
Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Cymru head of local government said,
“At a crucial stage in their lives, young people desperately need the support well-qualified youth workers can provide. By forcing through savage spending cuts which devastate our local public services, the UK Conservative government is guilty of writing off the livelihoods and potential of so many Welsh youngsters.
“Youth work consistently proves value for money. Supporting people at an impressionable age, raising their aspirations and helping them into further education or work, saves taxpayers’ spending on social security benefits, social care and the criminal justice system.”
Keith Towler, Chair of the Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services, said,
“Good youth work saves young lives. For many young people, the trusted relationship that they have with their local youth project helps them build resilience, self-esteem and find a professional response at times of crisis. It provides a safe place to meet friends, explore new experiences and allows young people to realise their full potential.”
UNISON is campaigning for fair funding for youth services, a statutory duty on councils to provide youth services and for the involvement and consultation of young people in determining the future of these services.