As youth centres close across the country, more than 1,000 young people lobby MPs in Westminster
Around 1,200 young people took their fight against cuts to youth services to the heart of power, with a day-long event at Westminster.
Choose Youth is an alliance of over 30 unions and youth sector organisations, and the day included a rally near Parliament, and a chance for young people to lobby their MP face-to-face.
Dara Farrell, aged 18, from Ashford, Kent, vice-chair of the British Youth Council, a Unite member and part-time youth worker, gave the opening address.
He has been campaigning to save youth services for the past year, with the BYC joining Unite and UNISON in the Choose Youth movement.
“At 11 or 12 I attended my local youth centre,” he told UnionNews. “I’m from a one-parent family, a deprived estate, I tick all the boxes, and without that youth service, well, people I was hanging around with have done multiple prison sentences.
“And the youth service I attended since 11 is being shut down. “
Farrell said he met Tim Loughton, the Children’s Minister, during the lobby of MPs but was not optimistic of changes.
“I confronted him with the fact that when young people go to local councils to protest, they blame national government – but ministers always say it is up to local councils.
“It seems to me he has washed his hands of cuts to the youth service.”
Farrell identified cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance, Child Trust Fund, and Building Schools for the Future, as being of concern, as well as the rise in university tuition fees.
Kevin Henman, a Unite member and youth worker from Devon, brought three coachloads up to the rally.
“They know what is happening to their youth service because it has been slashed and they are angry about it,” he said.
“Some young people have organised marches and petitions, and written to their MP, and this was a good opportunity to meet their MP on their own turf and go into the House of Commons and put their case.
“Because the way this government is going they don’t feel they have a voice. They want to talk about EMA, tuition fees, and cutbacks and closures of youth services, which is why they have come from Cheshire, Devon, Birmingham and from all over the country.”
UNISON says £200 million will have been cut from youth services by April 2012, on top of £62 million in the last financial year – much more than had been predicted.
The figures came from Freedom of Information requests to local authorities, and general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Youth services are being seen as a soft target, with councils making huge cuts, or removing whole services.
“This includes the loss of projects for rural communities, young mums, young carers, counselling and anti-social behaviour prevention.
“These challenges are especially hitting young people from low income families.
“The government is failing young people – they should have a statutory responsibility to councils to make sure they provide vital youth services.”
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