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Youth offending teams see funding cuts as youth knife crime rises

Success at tackling youth crime will be threatened unless funding in this area is maintained, the LGA has recently warned.

Councils have not yet received their youth justice grant allocations for 2018-19, despite having to set budgets within two weeks, which the LGA says is causing concern.

Youth offending teams (YOTs) have seen a “significant reduction” in their government funding in recent years - between 2010-11 and 2017-18 it halved, from £145m to just £72m.

Included in these reductions were a £9m in-year cut in 2015, and a further 12% budget cut for 2016-17.

The LGA claims that council YOTs have achieved huge success in working with young people and supporting them to prevent them from getting involved in youth crime.

The last decade has seen a reduction of 85% in first time entrants to the youth justice system, and there are 74% fewer young people in the average custodial population, and there has been a reduction in youth cautions of 90%.

However, since March 2012 there has been an increase of 11% in offences involving knives or offensive weapons by young people, whereas there has been a 10% reduction for adults.

But the LGA has warned that significant rises in demand for urgent child protection work, combined with a £2bn funding gap facing children’s services by 2020 mean that councils are being forced to divert their “limited funding” away from preventative work, including YOTs and youth work in order to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said that YOTs are:  “victims of their own success,” adding: “As the numbers of young offenders has fallen, so has the grant from central government to continue the preventative work that caused the fall in the first place.”

He warned that funding cuts undermine the progress that has been made over the last decade, with the increase in knife crime highlighting the challenges still faced by YOTs.

“Councils must be given the resources they need to work with young people and prevent their involvement in crime in the first place, rather than simply picking up the pieces after offences have been committed,” Watts said.

However, he argued that years of cuts mean that the youth justice grant now makes up just a third of YOTs’ funding.

“With council children’s services budgets increasingly focused on those children in the most urgent need of protection, YOTs are struggling to access the funding necessary to run vital, and successful, prevention and intervention schemes,” explained Watts.

The chair added: “With council budgets being finalised in the coming weeks, youth offending teams need to know that they can rely on the same level of grant funding as last year, at the very least, to continue their work to keep young people out of the youth justice system.

“This is made all the more urgent given that last year, the chief inspector of prisons found that none of the youth custody establishments inspected in England and Wales was safe to hold children and young people.”

Top image: grandriver

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