Preventing young people from getting involved in knife crime and county lines drug dealing is being seriously undermined as councils remain in the dark over how much money they will receive to tackle youth offending this year – more than two months after they had to set their budgets.
The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling on the Ministry of Justice to urgently announce this year’s funding to avoid further hampering efforts to plan services that support young people and keep them out of the youth justice system.
Town halls had to set their 2019/20 budgets in March, but they are still waiting to find out how much they will have to spend to tackle youth crime.
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.
Youth offending teams (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.
However, the overall size of the grant, which funds the vital work of YOTs within councils, has already been halved from £145 million in 2010/11 to £71.5 million in 2018/19, threatening councils’ abilities to maintain this success and protect residents. 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.
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 wait goes on for councils to find out how much money they will receive this year to fund youth offending teams.
“This unacceptable uncertainty is making it extremely difficult for them to plan the services which play a vital role in supporting young people and preventing them from getting involved in criminal activity such as knife crime or county lines drug dealing.
“Councils are determined to do all they can to protect young people and keep them safe, but their efforts are being seriously hampered by the lack of clarity around such a vital source of funding.
“Funding for youth offending teams has already more than halved since 2010, and the Government needs to act now by announcing it will at least maintain existing funding levels this year.”