Council boss in youth services funding pledge after watchdog criticism
The leader of Walsall Council has pledged to "revisit" funding for youth services after criticism from a watchdog that cuts are impacting on the rehabilitation of young offenders.
All but one of the town's youth centres have closed over the last three years, while funding for the Walsall Youth Justice Service, which works with children and young adults who have been involved in crime, has been cut.
It has led to calls from the HM Inspectorate of Probation for Walsall Council to review its funding package for the service amid concerns the cuts could prevent young offenders from turning their lives around.
A reduction in funding for youth services nationally has also been linked to the rise in knife crime, with the West Midlands having witnessed one of the highest spikes in violence.
The report published last week called on Walsall Council to "review the budget allocation to the youth justice service to determine the correct level of resource that allows the service to undertake its key functions well".
Council leader Mike Bird admitted youth services were "not in a good place" and said the authority would review funding.
He said: "Over the last number of years in Walsall, and across the country, there have been cuts to youth services.
"One of our elections pledges was that we said we would revisit youth services and see whether we could put money into services.
"I am not going to argue that it is not in a good place. Local authorities unfortunately have had to do the dirty work for central Government.
"I think we have been slow to react to it but now we are going to pick this up and run with it."
Patrick Green, chief executive of anti-knife charity the Ben Kinsella Trust, said the importance of youth services cannot be overstated.
He said: "Youth workers and youth services can play a crucial role in a young person life. They not only provide positive activities, but they allow young people to interact with good role models, access mentoring and in some cases help them to turn their lives around.
"Without youth work, we not only deprive young people of the opportunity to learn new skills in a safe environment, we make it much easier for gangs and criminal to divert them in to a life of crime. If we want to tackle knife crime we must start by re-investing in our youth services."