On 18th February, the Conservative-dominated Kent County Council voted down a proposal which would have given £1.4million to youth services. This is just one example in a long-line of instances which shows that the Conservative Party are letting down young people. Though Sean Holden, the Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Development, has argued that “It’s not the worst time it’s ever been and we are not a heartless county council that’s just going to abandon these people’, the evidence shows quite the opposite.
Nationally, between 2012-2016, 600 youth centres were closed down, 3,500 youth workers lost their jobs and 40,000 places in youth centres for young people were cut. These shocking figures show the level of contempt which Tories hold towards young people, but for the ageing councillors, youth services are a far-cry from what they, themselves, would need. In a survey of youth worker UNISON members, 88% felt that the cuts to youth services were causing higher youth unemployment and 84% considered it to have led to an increase in crime. But, for the Conservative councillors, the consistent blindness towards issues facing young people continues.
The failure to invest in youth services, the Tories may claim, is necessitated by the fact that local government funding has been decimated by central government. The great irony, however, is that it is their own Party that has done this to them, but it is the rest of us that feels the effects. The next Labour government will ring-fence funding for youth services, ensuring that this vital service is protected from any future cuts and will develop local strategies to re-invest and develop the work done by youth workers and centres.
Councillor Sean Holden, and the rest of his Conservative colleagues, may not need youth services themselves – but young people do and the effects of not having them are hugely detrimental to communities. Matthew Scott, Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has noted that vulnerable young people across Kent are being targeted by gangs from the London boroughs. It is therefore incredibly disappointing that his own Party on Kent County Council have chosen to make those young people more vulnerable by increasing the chances of them being exploited.
In a week whereby residents have been complaining online about the anti social behaviour of young people during half term, lets remember the important role that youth services play. Let’s continue our fight to bring back youth services, invest in schools and build proper housing so that future generations of young people won’t be let down like the ones before them.