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YMCA warns overdue investment and further funding cuts risk leaving youth services in crisis

by Tola Mbakwe

The YMCA in England and Wales has warned that youth services will be plunged into emergency without more funding from the Government. 

It's found that local authority spending on youth services between 2019 and 2020 in England was six per cent less than the year before, amounting to £372 million. The Christian youth charity said this means that since 2010/2011, funding for youth services has been cut by 73 per cent. 

The YMCA has lamented the fact that not only do these continued cuts come during the coronavirus pandemic, just as demand for youth services has intensified, but they come at a time when crucial investment has been promised but not yet fully delivered. 

The charity said on top of this the "disproportionate and devastating" impact of the pandemic on young people's mental health means youth services find themselves at their most critical point in history. 

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, said: "In our Out of Service report one year ago, YMCA warned that without significantly re-investing in youth services we would be condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn. The traumatic impact of pandemic, combined with faltering investment and continued cuts means that this warning is perilously close to becoming a reality."

YMCA's Back on Track report, published in August 2020, revealed that 57 per cent of young people felt that their mental health has worsened during lockdown, with 77 per cent feeling lonelier and more isolated. This is on top of recent findings from NHS Digital, which cite that one in six children aged 5-16 now identify as having a probable mental disorder, an increase from one in nine just three years ago.

The charity insists that after suffering such disruption during their formative years, it is vital that young people have access to services and safe spaces for their personal, social and emotional development outside of home or school. It states that such services are a key element in young people's recovery from the effects of the pandemic. 

"The Government must deliver on its promises, such as those outlined in the Youth Investment Fund, and significantly re-invest in youth services right now in order to change the course of the future for thousands of anxious, isolated and vulnerable young people," Hatton added. 

"While we appreciate that difficult decisions must be made in order to protect the financial health of the country as it recovers from the pandemic, now is the time for areas buckling under the strain of consistent underfunding to be held up and helped to rebuild in order to support their communities.

"With the right funding and strategic planning, youth services can be utilised to carefully and positively build young people's confidence and prepare them for the future, ensuring that they are not left further behind." 

Each year, YMCAs provide a safe space for 41,960 young people through youth services work. The charity welcomes almost 20,000 young people through its 79 youth centres throughout England and Wales.

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