Efforts to stop children joining gangs and getting involved in violent crime will be undermined if the Government makes further cuts to the money councils receive to tackle youth offending, town halls warn today.
This comes as figures show that youth justice grants, which fund the vital work of youth offending teams (YOTs) within councils, have been halved from £145 million in 2010/11 to £71.5 million in 2018/19.
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, says further funding cuts would seriously hamper efforts to provide vital support to young people and protect them from criminal activity, such as becoming involved in knife violence or “county line” gangs.
Councils are currently waiting to find out their youth justice grant allocations for 2019/20, despite already having had to set their overall annual budgets.
The LGA says that until councils know how much funding they will receive, it makes planning services to support young people and help keep them out of the youth justice system extremely difficult.
With the recent surge in knife violence among young people, the LGA says funding should at the very least, be maintained at last year’s level.
YOTs have achieved huge success in working with and supporting young people to prevent them getting involved in youth crime, with an 86 per cent drop in First Time Entrants to the youth justice system and a 78 per cent drop in arrests over the last decade.
The number of youth cautions handed out dropped by more than 100,000, or 91 per cent, in the same period.
The large reduction in YOT funding has meant councils have had to make up the shortfall from their own budgets, which are already overstretched and under growing pressure.
Children’s services face a funding gap of £3.1 billion by 2025, which the LGA says the Government needs to address in this year’s Spending Review.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“The recent spate of tragic violence across the country underlines the importance of investing in services which protect and support young people, keeping them safe from the lure of gangs or from becoming involved in serious crime.
“Youth offending teams within local authorities have an outstanding record of reducing youth crime and making a real difference to young people’s lives, but they are under huge pressure after seeing their government funding halved.
“We share the Government’s determination to tackle youth crime, but it needs to properly fund the services that work most closely with young people at risk of offending.
“It is also important that there is no delay in councils finding out how much funding they will be allocated, so they can effectively plan services to support young people.”