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UK News

Churches urged to step up and support young people as 32% claim they feel unsafe on the streets

by Heather Preston

Churches have been urged to "step forward" to fill the gap in youth services as funding plummets to its lowest point in a generation.

A survey by the Christian charity YMCA found that one in five youths said they feared becoming a victim of knife crime, while 32 per cent of them said they did not feel safe on the streets.

YMCA's Liam Preston told Premier Christian News an increase in incidents is creating a culture of fear.

"It's a constant at the moment, there are numerous cases of knife crime and violence and gang culture amongst young people. It's growing. And so it's natural for young people to be scared of these things," he said.

"We need to find places where young people can enjoy being young without having that fear attached to them."

Figures show that less than a third of young people have a "trusted adult" in their lives that they can share concerns and struggles with. Preston argues this makes places like the YMCA even more essential in today's society because they act as a "first point of contact" for many under 18's to address everyday issues they are facing.

The study revealed that although 55 per cent of those surveyed felt youth groups were key in providing safe, alternative spaces for them to spend their time, only half knew where to find them in their area.

"Youth services are there to improve young people's confidence, their self-esteem, develop new skills, but also just to have somewhere where they can spend time with friends," Preston said.

In the last decade over a billion pounds of youth service funding has been taken away by local authorities across England and Wales. Preston says they have lost more than 700 workers during the same period as a result of financial shortages, leaving young people with "less places to turn" and "less individuals for young people to turn to".

Preston says the Church has a role to play in filling the gap.

"It often takes organisations like the Church to step forward and say, 'look, as money is taken away from these services actually, we're going to step forward and do this voluntary'."

The charity has launched a petition calling on the Government to prioritise the needs of young people and reinvest in youth services and is asking Christians to join the campaign to "collectively save youth service."

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