Rachel Ojo on the need for expanded youth services

 

I’m Rachel Ojo, I’m the chair of the UK Youth select committee for knife crime and over the years I have benefited greatly from youth services. We recommend that there is at least 50% increase in funding for youth services nationwide to reverse the effects of continued budget cuts. Youth services have suffered a 70% funding cut in less than a decade and this is completely unacceptable. Youth services are a key preventative measure proven to have the ability to transform the lives of young people by helping them to build new skills that will last a lifetime and to increase in confidence, resilience and employability. They help young people to realise their potential, aspire for more and know that they can achieve anything they work hard for.

Hopeful young people are less likely to be involved in youth violence. We believe that every young person deserves access to youth services, and we cannot have a one size fits all approach, the services need to be tailored to the specific needs of each local community in order to engage young people. We need to ensure that youth services are of a high quality so that they can be effective as a tool to eliminate youth violence.

This means that not only do we need guaranteed funding, but it is crucial that we invest in youth workers by paying them fairly, recognising them and providing adequate training. In the safer lives survey that reached over 2000 young people, 23% stated that they would ask youth workers for help and advice if they felt worried about being a victim of violence.

This provides further evidence that youth services are an important source of help and support in todays society. We want action to be taken, and for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to take responsibility and respond to this recommendation by the end of august.

Even if the treasury needs to increase funding to the DCMS to fulfil our recommendation, they should do so. This is because people in power need to realise that youth services are not a luxury, they are indeed a necessity if we want to protect the lives of our young people.