Northumbria Police chief calls for increase in funding for Sunderland Youth Services to prevent escalation in crime
The city’s police chief has called for greater funding for Youth Services over concerns a lack of investment is leading to a rise in antisocial behaviour and vulnerability of young people.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, cited 10 years of real-term funding cuts with a report produced on her behalf highlighting a 78 per cent cut in Youth Service funding in Sunderland from 2010-11 to 2019-20 – with £9.5m of money slashed.
Kim said: “These findings spell out very clearly how there are young people struggling to find support right here in Sunderland. We have charities giving their all, putting everything into making young people’s lives better but some are having to fund-raise for every penny that comes in. They need real help.”
The police chief believes the pandemic has only served to exacerbate the need for greater support for the city’s youngsters.
She added: “The aftermath of the pandemic is a crucial time for us to be getting things right – we can’t afford to let young people down so we all need to come together on this.
“Resources have never been so scarce. It’s time for some serious levelling up for young people in the North. It starts with funding youth services, funding youth workers and making young people and their futures at the top of the agenda.
"If we invest in young people, we are investing in the future and the whole criminal justice system can reap the benefits of this. Research has shown a growing link between cuts to youth services and the country’s knife crime epidemic and we’ll need to work together to turn this around.
"If we improve lives we prevent crime. This is what we all want for Sunderland.”
A survey conducted as part of the report revealed 82 per cent of respondents believed safe locations for young people to gather and meet would help prevent those involved from falling into a life of crime, 77 per cent stated there needs to be an increase in youth services and 63 per cent said that more employment and skill development opportunities were required.
Pallion Action Group’s Centre Manager, Karen Noble, said: "Cuts in funding across the youth services has led to a steady decline in quality provision. We are now at the point of seeing our young people engaging in antisocial behaviour and criminality which has escalated through Covid, as in many cases they’ve not had a youth provision to access.
"As a charity we struggle to get funding to keep our buildings open and often work above and beyond without funding trying to keep youngsters engaged. We need support to give young people somewhere to go, to have good role models and positive activities so they can make good lifestyle choices."
The call for greater funding has been backed by Together for Children Sunderland – who oversee Children’s Services in the city – and the Council’s portfolio holder for Children, Learning and Skills, Cllr Louise Farthing.
Cllr Farthing said: "Since 2010, Government austerity programmes have removed more than half of Government funding in real terms from City Council budgets and reduced options for non front-line spending, such as Youth Services.
“The financial position is worsening each year following more than a decade of austerity and funding cuts.
“Based on research by the National Audit Office, adjusted for inflation, we have lost more than a third of our Core Spending Power, which is the Government’s own measure of how much we have to spend on vital council services.
“Annual budget decisions are getting tougher and tougher for all councils and the year on year impact of reduced budgets is affecting young people and our communities.
“Young people are our future and we welcome the recommendations of the Police and Crime Commissioner's report and how the Government needs to look again and listen to what local communities are saying.”
Jill Colbert, Chief Executive at Together for Children, added: “Together for Children works closely with partners, in particular Northumbria Police, to develop innovative and creative ways of working with young people who we know are at risk of anti-social behaviour.
"This summer, through our Holiday Food and Activity Programme, we’ve developed bespoke street sessions for young people in parts of the city where they most need that outreach support.
"We’ve one of the lowest rates of first time entrants into the youth offending system and a very effective prevention offer for young people at risk of crime. We would always support an argument for more funding but haven’t let the limited resources get in our way of trying to reach out to vulnerable young people.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have defended their spending on Youth Services.
A spokeswoman said: “We absolutely recognise the vital role Youth Services play. Over £100 million from our unprecedented charity sector package has gone to organisations supporting children and young people during the pandemic, including the £16.5 million Youth Covid Support Fund which provided emergency funding specifically for youth services.
“This is part of our wider support for young people that includes the £200 million Youth Endowment Fund to protect young people at risk of exploitation or becoming involved in serious violence and the Kickstart scheme to help them into employment.
"More than £6 billion of unringfenced funding has also been given to local authorities since the start of the pandemic to allocate in line with local needs, including on youth services."