Young people have handed in a petition asking councillors to rethink cuts of £800,000 to the youth service budget in Brighton and Hove.
One of the campaigners, Raven Lee, 20, from Pre-Qual, the youth-led pro-equality movement, spoke at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting at Hove Town Hall yesterday afternoon (Thursday 26 January).
She said that the cuts were “short-sighted economically as well as socially” and would “put young people in harm’s way”.
She was greeted with applause and told by Labour councillor Dan Chapman, the new chairman of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, that £100,000 would be put back into the budget.
He said that the council faced difficult choices as it tried to balance its books and that there were no easy options.
Raven Lee told the meeting of the full council: “I have a petition here with 2,042 signatures opposing the proposed cuts of 80 per cent to the youth service budget.
“Youth services have already been reduced because of cuts over recent years and demand on the service left is high.
“They deal with anger issues, problems at home, depression, mental health issues, life management skills, building confidence and independence, bullying, issues at school, challenging behaviour, sex and relationship advice, conflict resolution and more.
“Without youth services, there is nothing for young people to do and they’re more likely to go out and get into trouble.
“Don’t reduce the support and advice they get which prevents issues like drinking, drugs, violence, crime, sexual health issues and pregnancy.
“Research suggests that for every £1 the council spends on youth services, it saves them £5.56.
“These cuts are short-sighted economically as well as socially.
“Issues that can damage young people’s lives can be avoided by keeping these services.
“We appreciate that central government have made huge cuts to the local budget. However, we would argue that vulnerable young people should not be put at risk when council executives are on six-figure salaries.
“Young people benefit from services in so many ways. They get support from youth workers, they get free meals, learn skills, have a safe space to go, are offered opportunities and have a place to socialise.
“The cuts will put young people in harm’s way and take away their support systems.
“Why is it that some of the most vulnerable people in our society will be put at risk to pay for these cuts?
“Solutions such as extra support from schools and services like CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) have been offered but these are not solutions. CAMHS is already under huge pressure, as are teachers.
“Young people don’t always reach out to unknown organisations for help which is why informal youth services where relationships are built offer something unique that really makes a difference.
“And many young people don’t feel they can talk to adults at school. So how will the 4,500 young people attending services yearly be supported?
“We ask you not to put vulnerable young people at risk and not to reduce funding for youth services.”
The union Unison is organising a rally on Saturday to protest about the proposed cuts. It said: “Extreme and damaging cuts to youth services, both in and out of the council, are proposed in the 2017-18 budget.
“Many young people affected by these cuts are organising their own resistance which is brilliant. We need to support them. And Unison also has members in these services who face job losses.
“Two events are coming up in support of these services and those who work in them.
“Saturday 28 January at 1pm – demo and march from the Old Steine to Brighton Station.
“Wednesday 1 February at 7.30pm at the Brighthelm Centre auditorium – public meeting.”