The scale of cuts to youth services across the country which campaigners say has fuelled the UK's knife crime epidemic can be laid bare today.
An exclusive Mirror Online investigation reveals that hundreds of youth workers have lost their jobs and millions of pounds have been slashed off council budgets during the Tory-led austerity programme.
Birmingham's council has seen its youth services budget go from £7.94million ten years ago to just £1.9m while Liverpool has just 26 council-employed youth workers compared to 110 in 2009.
In London more than 500 youth worker jobs have been slashed and dozens of youth centres have been forced to close.
Enfield – the London borough with the highest rate of serious youth violence – has seen its budget for youth services fall from £2.6m in 2009 to just £569,040 in 2019.
Knife crime in England and Wales is currently at a record high and has seen a 38% increase since 2010/11.
Campaigners have told Mirror Online there is "no doubt" the cuts to youth services have led to an increase in knife crime, and a council leader said young people have paid with their lives.
Have you been affected by knife crime or cuts in youth services? Email [email protected]
Labour has promised a £1bn boost to youth services if it wins the general election – which includes building up to 500 youth centres across the country.
Patrick Green, chief executive of the Ben Kinsella Trust – which was set up in memory of 16-year-old Ben, who was stabbed to death in North London in 2008 – said: "I think there's no doubt amongst everybody that works in this sector that the fact youth services have been decimated is a contributor to the increase in knife-related violence.
"What your research is highlighting is that when young people don't get the support or the diverting activities they need, it makes it easier for gangs to recruit disaffected young people."
SEE HOW KNIFE CRIME HAS INCREASED IN YOUR AREA
And he said that 20,000 youth workers are needed across the country to address the damage done.
Figures obtained by Mirror Online under the Freedom of Information Act paint a bleak picture since Tory chancellor George Osborne launched the government's austerity programme in 2010.
Our findings show:
- In Birmingham, the council's youth services budget – which in 2009 was £7.94million – now stands at a paltry £1.9m
- Manchester's youth service budget has gone from £8.36m in 2009 to just £2.29m.
- In Enfield – which has the highest rate of serious youth violence of London's 32 boroughs – the budget for youth services has fallen from £2,6m in 2009 to just £569,040 in 2019
- Liverpool had 110 youth workers 10 years ago but just 26 are now employed by the city council
- Tower Hamlets' £7.2m budget in 2010 has been slashed to £3.6m, and the number of youth workers has fallen from 196 to 55 since 2014
- Similar cuts at Leeds City Council have seen a £4.1m budget more than halved, to £1.86m, and the number of youth workers fall from 236 to 68
- Barking & Dagenham Council in London, which a decade ago employed 40 youth service staff, now has 17 with a budget of £738,000, down from £2.6m
- In Bradford the youth service budget has fallen from £4m to £2m since austerity began
- Glasgow City Council has seen the annual budget cut from £283,000 to £99,000
- Over the past five years, the youth service budget in Brent, London, has fallen from £2.5m to £983,000, and it employs just 2.1 full time equivalent youth workers
Earlier this year research by the all-party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found that places hit hardest by youth service cuts experienced the steepest rise in knife crime.
One of the hundreds of youth workers to have lost his job as a result of the cuts is West Londoner Emmanuel George Badoe, who told Mirror Online: "We cover so many different aspects of young peoples' lives, we're their mentors, we're their counsellors, we're their teachers."
Lydia Lawrence, who knows full well the devastation knife crime can cause after she was left in a coma following a brutal stabbing, said better support should have been available for the woman who tried to kill her.
Javed Khan, chief executive of children's charity Barnado's, said the cuts have created a "poverty of hope".
He told Mirror Online: “These figures are disheartening but sadly not surprising. Young people are being left out in the cold by cuts to youth services, contributing to a ‘poverty of hope’ among those who see little or no chance of a positive future.
“Recent figures show that as funding for councils has reduced, real-term spending on youth services has fallen by an average of 40% over the past three years. Over the same period police in England and Wales recorded a 68% increase in knife offences.
“Youth workers and community services are a lifeline for young people, providing them with safe spaces and role models which help to restore their sense of hope."
Stefan Brown, who heads London-based community group Stop Our Kids Being Killed On Our Streets, said: "If these cuts hadn't happened it would have saved a lot of lives.
"We've lost a great team of youth workers. A lot of these kids haven't got their parents around, the youth workers are like surrogate parents to them.
"Organisations like mine are now trying to plug the gap."
And Anna Smee, who was chief executive of UK Youth for five years, said: "We've been saying for years that we need to invest in youth services, and we're starting to see the correlation between cuts and serious violence."
The cities where youth services have been decimated
Among the many places experiencing a devastating drop is England's second biggest city, Birmingham.
A decade ago the city council employed 82 social workers, but now that number is just 39.
Since 2009 nearly three quarters of council-run youth centres have also closed – falling from 60 to 17.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson told Mirror Online that austerity had stripped away support which could help steer young people away from crime.
He said: “Central government cuts to local councils since 2010 has destroyed services for young people.
"Young people used to be offered help, support and activities which enabled them to lead successful lives and steered them, from crime.
“Now, with many of these services axed, some young people are finding themselves with limited life chances and no place to turn.
“Cuts to policing has meant there are over 2,000 fewer police officers in the West Midlands has contributed to a rise in crime.
“These cuts, mixed with a rise in school exclusions, are fuelling violence on our streets."
In the days before the government's deep cuts, Manchester City Council employed around 400 youth workers, 90% of which were part time.
Since then the council's youth service has been scrapped, replaced by commissioned services run by the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector.
The council said it is unable to provide the number of youth workers currently providing services, but revealed its budget has dropped dramatically.
This stood at £8.36m in 2009, but is now £2.92m.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said cuts to youth services were one factor in the rise of knife crime.
He said: "Austerity undoubtedly had a negative impact but from a Manchester perspective, but I would suggest the 40% reduction in Neighbourhood services staff, 2000 less police officers in Greater Manchester and benefit cuts including scrapping of educational maintenance allowance are just as significant as youth service cuts."
In Liverpool the number of council-employed youth workers has fallen from 110 in 2009 to just 26 now.
The youth service budget has been slashed by more than two thirds – from £6,431,000 a decade ago to £2,023,000 in 2019.
According to government figures, the number of incidents involving knives across Merseyside have risen by 130% since 2010.
Last year police dealt with 1,404 incidents involving blades or sharp objects.
Merseyside's police and crime commissioner, Jane Kennedy, is in no doubt that austerity has played its part.
Ms Kennedy, who served as a Labour MP between 1992 and 2010 before quitting the party earlier this year, said: "I have no doubt that having fewer police officers available to protect the public has led to an increase in crime, and of knife crime in particular.
"I can't prove categorically that it's linked to the loss of police officers, but common sense said it is."
More than 500 youth worker jobs have been wiped out, while dozens of youth centres have been forced to close since the government launched its austerity programme nearly 10 years ago.
Last year 75 people were stabbed to death in London, and more than a quarter of the 40,800 knife offences reported across England and Wales happened in the city.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act has uncovered staggering changes to youth services across London's 32 boroughs.
Last year violent crime involving youths rose by 8.8% in Enfield, with 397 serious incidents reported – the highest rate of serious youth violence in London, according to police.
Enfield Council leader Nesil Caliskan said: "The work the youth services do is preventative, if you decimate a service like that, the impact is felt a decade on.
"Lives could have been saved. Young people in Enfield have paid the price, we're talking about serious injuries, we're talking about death.
"I'm in no doubt that for young people in the borough losing 250 police officers and losing youth workers is a lethal combination."
Ms Caliskan said despite Mr Javid's pledge to plough more resources into local authorities, she is still faced with making £13million of cuts next year.
London mayor Mr Khan said: “It is impossible to decimate youth and other preventative services as well as ignore the most vulnerable in society and be taken seriously about commitments to keep knife and violent crime down.
Youth service cuts in London
- In Enfield – which has the highest rate of serious youth violence in London – the budget for youth services has fallen from £2,645,790 in 2009 to just £569,040 in 2019
- A decade ago Harrow Council had a youth service budget of more than £3.1million, compared to £586,000 in 2019
- Barking & Dagenham Council, which a decade ago employed 40 youth service staff, now has 17 with a budget of £738,200, down from £2.6million
- Brent Council had a budget of £2.52million in 2014 for youth services, but this has now been slashed to £983,278
- Bromley Council, which employed 100 youth workers a decade ago, now has just 42, and the number of youth centres it runs has halved, from 10 to five
- Tower Hamlets' £7.2million budget in 2010 has been slashed to £3.6million, and the number of youth workers has fallen from 196 to 55 since 2014
- Just 4.5 youth workers are employed in Haringey, which in 2009 had 26. The budget dropped from £1.77million to £768,900 in that time
- Croydon, which has a population of more than 380,000, employs just 24 full time equivalent youth workers
Since 2014 the number of youth service staff has been slashed from 27 to 13 in Kingston Upon Thames
Bexley Council now employs just 14 youth workers and runs two youth centres, compared to 36 and seven respectively a decade ago
In Ealing, where a decade ago there were seven council-run youth centres open, now there are just three, and the number of youth service staff has fallen from 38 to 15
- In Sutton the number of youth workers has fallen by nearly two thirds since 2009, from 28 to just 10
- In Islington the council now employs just four youth workers, down from 64 five years ago – but says this is due to use of external providers
- Lambeth Council currently employs just two youth workers. It was unable to provide details going back 10 years, but revealed its youth and play services budget is £1.8million, down from £4.5million in 2014/15
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea now employs eight youth workers – but claimed 'system changes' mean they cannot provide historical data
The youth service budget for Havering has fallen from £766,000 to £426,130 in five years, and now employs just six full-time equivalent youth workers
Hounslow's spend on youth services has more than halved in five years – from £1million in 2014 to £400,000 this year
Lewisham Council no longer employs youth workers, with a new not-for-profit organisation called Youth First formed in 2015 to replace the youth service
Westminster Council, which no longer provides youth services directly, now allocates just £75,000 to a 'stay safe specific youth project, having had a budget of £1.16m in 2013/14
Since 2014 the London Borough of Redbridge has had a youth service budget cut from £1.09million to £562,450
"In London we have seen the impact of this government’s austerity policies with 104 youth centres closed and about 560 full-time youth workers lost since 2011."
In 2009, before the era of austerity, Glasgow City Council employed 29 youth workers.
A decade later, less than half remain, with Freedom of Information Act figures revealing there are currently 11.
It does not run any youth centres.
The annual youth service budget has fallen from £283,333 per year to £99,058.
Before austerity there were 82 council-employed youth workers in Bradford, but now there are just 44.5.
The youth service budget has been halved since the government's comprehensive spending review.
In 2009 it stood at £4million, but now this stands at just two.
A decade ago the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council ran 19 youth centres, but now it runs 10.
Leeds City Council was unable to provide data from before 2011/12, but nevertheless the figures paint a depressing picture.
In 2011 the council allocated £4.17million for youth services.
By the start of this financial year, however, that stood at just £1.8million.
The total number of people employed by the youth service dropped from 136.5 to 78 in the same time period.
The City of Cardiff Council said it was unable to provide the number of youth workers in 2009.
However the number has remained relatively static since 2014, with 55.6 full time equivalent roles at present, a slight rise on the 54 five years ago.
The budget for youth services has fallen, but not as steeply as in local authorities elsewhere.
In 2010/11 the council allocated £3,611,889 to youth services, which fell to £3,176,690 in 2019.
Boris Johnson has unveiled controversial new stop and search plans and pledged to recruit 20,000 police officers to replace those lost.
The Serious Violence Taskforce, chaired by the Home Secretary, meets regularly to oversee and drive delivery of the government's Serious Violence Strategy.
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