Shock over youth services spending
LESS cash is spent on youth services in the East of England than anywhere else in the country, shocking figures reveal.And a leading drugs campaigner warned last night unless more cash was invested in facilities to provide children with “self-esteem”, more would turn to substance abuse.
By Danielle Nuttall
LESS cash is spent on youth services in the East of England than anywhere else in the country, shocking figures reveal.
And a leading drugs campaigner warned last night unless more cash was invested in facilities to provide children with “self-esteem”, more would turn to substance abuse.
Just 12p per person per day on average is invested into young people's services in the region - £42 per year - leaving East Anglia at the bottom of the youth spending league table.
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The figure is 5p short of the national average of 17p per person per day and 17p less than the average daily spending on youth services in London.
Suffolk's spending on services such as youth clubs, after school groups, outdoor education facilities and youth support officers in schools is among the lowest in East Anglia at £32 per person per year.
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It is ahead only of Norfolk (£26) and Cambridgeshire (£31).
The figures are revealed in a report published by Nestlé Make Space, a national campaign lobbying central government for a better deal for young people.
Chip Somers, project manager of Bury St Edmunds-based drugs charity Focus 12, said: “The way to avoid anti-social behaviour is to invest heavily in education and pleasure activities for young people.
“If we take a short-sighted view and don't invest strongly, we can hardly be surprised if it comes back to haunt us later on.
“A large availability of drugs and bored young people is a recipe for disaster. If people feel motivated and are getting self-esteem from doing things they are far less likely to get involved in drugs through boredom.”
Michael Peck, project manager of Felixstowe-based Level 2 Youth Project - an information and advice drop-in centre for young people - said Suffolk's spending on youth services had slipped from being within the bottom 25% of the country to the bottom 10%.
“They (Suffolk County Council) are mindful of the fact it is a low spending authority on new service provision but the council is trying to save money and youth work is not a statutory duty. That's always been the sticking point.
“Felixstowe could do with more youth workers. It all comes down to how much money is available to support these kinds of initiatives.”
Cllr Patricia O'Brien, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said: “We are pleased that the Government has awarded Suffolk £639,000 a year for two years of Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funding which will be spent on facilities and opportunities which young people identify as priorities for their local areas.
“We are developing groups of young people who will work together with local agencies to identify these priorities and manage the funds.
“This is a great opportunity and if any Suffolk young people would like to be part of this exciting work, they should contact Pauline Henry at the Suffolk Youth and Connexions Service email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01473 261900.”
The budget for youth services is allocated to local authorities by central government based on a formula involving the number of 13-19 year olds in an area and the index of social deprivation for that area.
Evidence suggests youth clubs could be closing by as much as 14% since 2004.
Bud Simpkin, chief executive of Young Suffolk - an umbrella group for all the voluntary youth organisations in Suffolk - said: “It's well known Suffolk youth services have been under funded for the last six or seven years.
“But they are making enormous strides to revitalise the youth service. The Connexions and youth services are being integrated in Suffolk and they are one of the first doing that.”
Mr Simpkin added: “Hopefully this (research) will give more determination to local government officers and councils to really grasp the nettle and make a real investment in services for children and young people in Suffolk.”