Youth services slashed since riots

Enfield Council’s cuts among highest in London, reports James Cracknell

Cuts to youth services in Enfield since the 2011 riots have been more severe than in almost any other London borough, new figures reveal.

A report by a member of the London Assembly highlighted that 104 youth centres had closed across the capital over the last eight years. Enfield Council was shown to have slashed its spending on youth services by 88% – from £3.5million in 2011-12 to £411,444 in 2018-19.

Platinum Performing Arts
Platinum Performing Arts in Edmonton is one of a number of local youth services provided independently from Enfield Council – its ‘Power to Make a Change’ programme recently won five years’ funding from the National Lottery

Although four of London’s 32 boroughs did not provide data for the report, of those listed only Westminster had cut youth service funding at a faster rate and only Hillingdon and Tower Hamlets had reduced their total spend by a higher amount over the same period. Just three London boroughs reported spending less on youth services than Enfield.

While the council does continue to run five youth centres across the borough, other services for young people such as after-school clubs, summer holiday courses, skills training and careers advice have been cut in recent years.

In the 2019-20 budget agreed by the council in February, further cuts of £18m across all services were agreed, including a £40,000 reduction in spending on the borough’s youth offending unit and a £50,000 cut to children’s services staff.

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry, who wrote the damning report London’s Lost Youth Services, said: “This issue means so much more than figures on a budget spreadsheet. Our young people are in crisis – they have lost places to hang out, lost trusted youth workers to help when they face problems in their lives, and lost training and mentoring to guide them to reach their fullest potential.

“Government ministers can’t keep brushing off their responsibility to young people and expect squeezed councils to manage on crumbs. They and the mayor must step in and find new ways to fill this funding black hole.”

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council has been forced to make £178million of savings since 2010, because of reductions in the funding provided to it by the government and increasing pressure on services.

“A key priority for the council is protecting children and providing the services that parents and young people need. Despite the substantial savings the council has been forced to make, none of the borough’s seven youth centres [five council run and two independent ones] which cater for young people aged 11 – 19, have been closed. There are also over 200 voluntary sector providers in the borough providing youth activities.

“We have invested additional money this year to provide a number of programmes this year for young people. For example, Enfield Council’s youth development unit will be hosting a summer university, where a wide range of activities will be on offer for young people including IT and photography classes, skills for life, health and beauty, arts and fashion and music. We are working with local businesses and volunteers to make sure it is an engaging, educational and fun series of events for young people during the summer break.

“We have also successfully bid for £500,000 from the government to work with young people and divert them away from crime and violence and additionally the council has invested a further £500,000 to tackle these issues.”