Youth service cuts linked to a rise in crime

Youth service cuts linked to a rise in crime

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:48am 13th November 2019.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has drawn a link between cuts to the Dorset youth service budget and an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

He says the decision by the former county council to cut its youth budget has led to many in a generation growing up without amenities or support.

In some areas youth clubs, where they still exist, are run now by volunteers struggling to meet the cost of keeping them open.

Martyn Underhill

Mr Underhill (pictured above ) said:

"The local authorities have removed most youth services except those that are statutory.

"This retreat from outreach services, youth services and early intervention over several years, has led to a generation of youth growing up in Dorset without amenities or support in many cases.

"We have lost Surestart for example, and in rural Dorset, the Council have shed over 20 youth community centres."

His comments came after councillors on the police and crime panel heard a report which says that Dorset youngsters are now more likely to end up with a criminal record than elsewhere in the country.

teenager legs and feet

The panel was told that 350 youngsters, aged 10-17, per 100,000, entered the youth justice system in Dorset for the first-time last year – compared with averages of less than 250 nationally.

In 2016 Dorset County Council took the decision to reduce its youth budget from £2.2 million a year to no more than £1.2 million, with a reduction in budgets also taking place in Bournemouth and Poole.

Between 2014 and 2019 the total grants to the pan-county youth offending services has reduced from £809,700 to £588,700.

Mr Underhill said:

"We all know this translates to poor school attendance, an increase in children who are NEETS an increase in exclusions and an increase in youth anti-social behaviour such as we currently see in our towns, with hotspot’s like Poole bus station.

"It also translates to a rise in youth knife crime and youth violence.

"We face a societal issue, that needs a societal response."

girls-3481791_1280

He said he would be writing to the chief executives of both unitary councils to express his concerns.

Dorset Council is already planning the return of a limited number of youth workers under the social services Blueprint for Change exercise currently undereway.

Cllr Les Fry said the former council’s decision meant that Dorchester Youth Centre now needed to raise £65,000 each year to do the work the council used to do.

Fellow Dorchester councillor, Molly Rennie, who is also involved with the youth centre, said the previous council decision to cut youth budgets was the worst decision it ever made.

Court Legal

The panel report, from OPCC chief executive Simon Bullock said that despite cuts of more than 25 per cent over 5 years to the funding of the county’s Youth Offending Service some performance figures remained better than average –  with relatively low numbers for reoffending and custodial sentences.

Mr Bullock said that more work is needed to fully understand the reasons behind the increase in first-time child offenders but said it did coincide with a reduction in local authority supported youth services.

He says the office of the police and crime commissioner is helping, where it can, with some projects to help reduce the number of children entering the justice system. These include helping schools to manage incidents without the need for a court appearance and delivering education programmes and interventions in schools, including targeting knife crime.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democarcy Reporter