Spending on youth services like music and sports programmes for at-risk children across England looks set to reach its lowest ever point in a generation, figures from the YMCA showed.
Leeds City Council slashed budgets for youth programmes by 86 per cent since 2010, when the budget was £22,004. In the 2018/19 financial year, this had dropped to £3,181.
After Leeds, Barnsley saw the next biggest cuts at 82 per cent and Wakefield was next at 80 per cent.
Further planned cuts across the current year mean spending on youth services is set to reach its lowest ever point in a generation at a critical time for youth and community support, the YMCA said.
An analysis of 84 local authorities across England revealed while the average spend on youth services per local authority in 2010 was £7.79m, planned average spend for 2019/20 is just £2.45m – a 69 per cent decline.
Nearly a third of local authorities have planned cuts that would see their spending on youth services decline by 80 per cent since 2010/11, while more than eight out of 10 local authorities have planned to cut their funding in half over the nine-year period.
Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England & Wales, said: “Youth services offer a vital lifeline within local communities, providing young people with support, advice and a place to go when they need it most. The year-on-year cuts to youth services are not without consequences and we are already seeing the impact of these cuts in communities across the country.”
On the back of what the YMCA described as “devastating” funding cuts, the organisation is asking the public to show their support in making young people the central focus of government action.
It called for “dedicated and appropriate funding” to allow local authorities to deliver necessary youth services locally and support their communities.
YMCA added: “Together, we can ensure that the services which provide a sense of belonging and keep young people safe are there when they need them the most.”
Coun Fiona Venner, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families, said: “Cuts to council budgets in recent years have led to significant reductions youth services in all local authorities and Leeds is no exception to this.
“In Leeds the most significant reduction in youth service budgets was between 2010-2015 as a result of a drop in government funding for local authority services. The reduction over this period also included a transfer of responsibility from local authorities to schools for Information Guidance and Advice around employment and training for school leavers.
“Despite this, since 2015 Leeds has strived to maintain a citywide youth service which can be accessed by all young people, with a more targeted support service for those with greater vulnerability. Leeds has a strong vision for youth work for the future and is looking to further develop the expertise and skills that professional youth workers bring to these vital local services.”