I recall very clearly how the Conservative Party used to regularly comment about the decisions taken by the Labour Party in their 13 years length Government. As it happens several of our local Conservative MPs made these comments over the same period. So perhaps now these same MPs will be willing to explain the actions of their own political party which has clearly made many decisions that are damaging our communities. One of the most reliable sources for this sort of analysis is from the Library in the House of Commons. I suspect that all MPs can obtain data online as is the case from many data sources. However, if not, as this week is the last week of their summer break, in a week’s time all MPs can go into their Library to collect this information. As it happens one of the party leaders has been disclosing some data from that library in the last few days and so the Conservative MPs cannot deny this. Perhaps we can call on them to raise this subject within their own Government. Indeed, given that two of our Sussex MPs are Ministers in the Department for Education and that this is the source of the challenge perhaps we could ask for an explanation on this subject over the next few days? Then when the MPs do return to Parliament, they could perhaps raise this theme along with a number of others that are urgent. As I wrote this time last week, the Universal Credit which is about to be cut at the end of September is one very clear issue. The reality is that young people will be disproportionately impacted by the Universal Credit cut as well as this current information.
This information was raised by Keir Starmer a few days ago during a visit. He pointed out that there has been a decade of cuts to youth services and this has matched a decade of increases in violent crime among young people. According the House of Commons library, in England and Wales between 2010/11 and 2019/20 funding for youth services has been cut by 68%. Tragically almost half of the areas with the deepest cuts were among those with the highest crime rates. Although this information was disclosed in a visit to Wolverhampton by Keir Starmer, it is very evident that the youth funding cuts in Sussex has also been very disturbing. I recall when I was the Chair of the YMCA that is now called Downslink Group how vital it was to obtain funding from local councils to provide services for young people in their communities. It is nearly a decade since I was involved in the YMCA but I would recommend that Sussex MPs should hold discussions with their local youth charities including YMCA Downslink Group. As Keir Starmer stated in his visit to Wolverhampton “Professional youth workers can recognise when a young person may need extra support outside school or home.” As it happens this visit took place a week after another report announced by the recent leader of the Green Party, Sian Berry who stated that youth service funding across London was cut by 44% in the last decade. Clearly that was much less of a cut than the overall cut across the nation. I do recall how West Sussex was dramatically cutting the youth provision when I was still involved in the YMCA, perhaps their cut has been even deeper than the average across the UK.
Along with the reports from the Labour and Green Party there has also been one from the National Youth Agency which was focusing on the cuts to youth services in rural areas. They have assessed that these cuts have left young people at a much greater risk of grooming from criminal gangs, poor mental health and a lack of employment support. Their document identifies that some 2.25 million young people living in rural areas of England have been hardest hit by a £1bn drop in local authority funding for youth work over the last decade. Spending per head on funding for services for 11 – 19 year olds in rural areas is £47 compared with £108 a decade ago. There was also an indication that the cut in urban areas is down at £62 per person compared with £158 in 2011. What makes this even more challenging is that these amounts are worth much less than they were 10 years ago so these cuts are even deeper than the figures suggest. The NYA report states “It is important for schools, colleges and youth services to come together seamlessly, to engage young people in education, levelling up opportunities in rural areas” Indeed along with them we also need the Government and Councils to come together and work with charities such as YMCA!