Over a thousand people attended a rally in in Solihull, West Midlands to protest at cuts being made to youth services. The event was organised by Unite to keep up the pressure on the Government and local councils as the cuts to services continue to be unveiled.
Organisers are concerned that services for young people are being disproportionately affected by the cuts made by councils.
Doug Nicholls Unite National Officer said: “We’re fighting to stop the demolition, not the cuts, but the demolition of the youth service which could be the first public service to disappear. We’ve come together to say to the Government and local councils these things will not happen, this is a false economy.”
The rally comes at the end of a week when many councils have announced where the cuts will be made: Birmingham City council has said it would cut £212m over the next 12 months, with 2,500 jobs being lost; Manchester City council announced it was having to close libraries, leisure centres and public toilets in order to balance its budget.
Many councils are closing some of their youth services or transferring them to the voluntary sector.
A survey by Unite of more than 40 local councils suggested that youth services would be hit the hardest by reductions in government funding.
Young people from across the country took part in protest poster-making and protest song workshops, and listened to speeches from a range of speakers.
They included a 12-year-old from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Witney constituency, who said he attended a youth club which was threatened due to the proposed cuts.
Nicky Wishart said: “I use it three times a week, which is a lot in a five-day working week. If it’s closed I won’t do anything – sit indoors, or hang around on the streets. I also use the local library which is also threatened with closure. I’ve got two younger brothers, one was born last Friday and one who is three, and both of them are never going to have a chance to know what a youth club is like.”
Lynn Yates, 19, from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, said youth services had helped her when she was homeless.
She said: “To think that they aren’t going to be able to help other people is a scary thought.
“Last June I was homeless and by talking to people at a youth centre and Connexions I got referred to the YMCA and lived there for six months, and now I have my own flat.”
Unite has warned of cuts of £100m from youth service budgets over the next year, with the loss of 3,000 jobs.
One protester, Steph Slater, said: “I think the fact even the smallest opportunities for young people to develop and gain confidence and realise what they want to do with their lives, is just being completely taken away.”
Unite is warning that one in four youth services face spending cuts of up to 30%, while councils like Birmingham claim that by changing the way some of the services are delivered will actually be more efficient.
Liam Preston from the British Youth Council said: “This actually really is a movement which is growing and young people are going to be more and more involved and have a bigger say about the issues affecting them in their area.”