Sea Cadets has joined leaders across the youth, education and corporate sectors to come together with celebrity backers and young people to demand that the government urgently invests in youth services. In an open letter to The Times, more than 100 senior figures and celebrities - including Caitlin Moran, Bear Gryls, Kathy Burke and Michael Sheen - have voiced their concern that youth services are being starved of funding at the very time when investment in young people has never been needed more.
The youth sector gives critical support, providing a lifeline for many vulnerable young people, particularly those living in areas of deprivation. A youth worker can listen when no-one else will, a youth centre offers a safe escape, and youth clubs and uniformed youth groups develop skills that can improve life chances. Youth services around the country have also offered young people a route to volunteer during the crisis, and will continue to support them to take action and make a difference in their communities. Investing in young people will help us all tackle the unprecedented set of societal challenges that we currently face.
Yet at a time when young people most need this support, the youth sector is facing an unprecedented funding crisis. Covid-19 restrictions have hit income streams and reduced the number of adults who can volunteer. Hundreds of jobs have been cut. This blow to the sector comes on top of almost £1 billion of funding cuts to youth services in England and Wales since 2011, forcing more than 1,000 children centres and 760 youth centres to close. As a result, spending has skyrocketed on ‘late interventions’ - such as sending children and young people into care.
We welcomed the Government’s £500 million Youth Investment Fund announced over a year ago. However this- manifesto commitment has still not materialised. Many organisations were relying on this funding to invest in vital services to meet the increased needs of young people. Yet these same services are now on the brink of collapse: 2 in 3 will not be able to meet costs in four months time. Current Government funding commitments - whilst welcome - are unfortunately nowhere near enough. Together with young people we are therefore calling for:
- All existing financial commitments for young people to be honoured - including the £500 million Youth Investment Fund
- An immediate release of funding for the youth sector to ensure vital support reaches young people at this crucial time
- A targeted, cross-sector recovery strategy for and with children and young people, informed by an inquiry into the impact of Covid-19