Labour pledges universal access to youth services amid rising knife crime and loneliness
Labour has vowed to end the “postcode lottery” of youth services by offering all young people help to confront "complex challenges" such as knife crime and mental health.
The party says its 'Only Young Once' plan would rebuild support for young people through a national “Youth Service Guarantee” that promises "high quality youth work for every young person regardless of their background or circumstance".
The pledge comes after analysis found that public spending on youth services in England has been slashed by £1bn since 2010 - a 73% cut.
It also found that 750 youth centres have closed since 2012, and 14,500 jobs have been lost in the sector since 2008.
Jeremy Corbyn said: “The cuts to public services over the last decade have hit young people particularly hard. Life for young people in Britain today is far harder than it needs to be, and worse in many ways than it was for previous generations.
“We need local youth services across the whole country. We need services that can meet the complex challenges faced by young people today. We need services that will nurture and empower young people to improve their own lives.”
Labour said rising knife crime, county lines gangs, mental health issues, rising exclusions and exam pressures were forcing increasing strain on young people.
The Labour leader added: “The experiences of our youth can shape our entire future lives. Our young people should be supported in adolescence, a time that should be as full of wonder and as free from trouble as possible. With each young person we have just one chance to get it all right.”
Funding for the scheme will be laid out in Labour's manifesto for the next General Election, the party said.
As part of its new scheme, the party has vowed to create a new “Youth Services Fund” to reverse austerity measures.
The new programme aims to provide extra-curricular activities, encourage arts and sports engagement, enable active citizenship and more.
Labour also says it will prioritise “community-based non-formal education” to boost young people’s skills and empowerment.
Plans also include more training, recruitment and an increase in qualified, professional youth workers, alongside the appointment of a minister for children and young people.
Labour’s shadow youth affairs minister Cat Smith said: “There are far too many young people today growing up with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to speak to about their lives.
“Young people deserve role models – someone who can build their aspirations, empower them to recognise their strengths, and spot the emergence of anti-social behaviour and divisive ideologies before they become social problems.
“Labour will restore a nationwide youth service, built for the many young people who represent our future, not just for the few young people requiring youth justice interventions.