Charity boss calls for youth funding cuts to be reversed
The boss of a national charity which supports children from troubled backgrounds has called for youth funding to be returned to levels seen at the start of the decade.
Matt Griffiths, chief executive of Youth Music, said cuts to youth services had gone too far and that he feared troubled teenagers were at risk of slipping into crime and gangs as a result.
Youth Music works with children and teenagers across the country and runs projects in the West Midlands, including at youth centres, pupil referral units and special schools allowing them to develop their musical talents, including in rap, hip-hop and grime.
The idea is to allow the youngsters to use their time wisely and be creative in an area they feel passionate about, channelling their energy, and sometimes anger, in a positive way.
Mr Griffiths believes projects like Youth Music, which is largely funded by the National Lottery, have a major impact on the lives of young people from challenging backgrounds but fears for those who don't have access to such services.
He said the West Midlands is among regions facing the biggest challenge because of the scale of cuts that have been witnessed and that is those from the poorest backgrounds that will suffer the most.
His intervention comes after an Express & Star investigation revealed millions of pounds had been slashed from youth services in the Black Country and Staffordshire over the last five years as knife crime rose to record levels.
This includes Walsall where all but one of the youth centres have closed over recent years and youth spending has been cut by half.
Mr Griffiths said he was particularly alarmed by the rate that youth centres are disappearing.
"These are the most precious environments for young people to feel safe and they are being cut," Mr Griffiths said.
"Currently we can only support 40 per cent of applications and it is young people in poverty who are losing out.
"If you can afford this stuff or pay for lessons it is not having such a detrimental effect but in Wolverhampton and Birmingham there is a real direct impact and we are trying to raise the volume about that.
"We know that these preventative programmes absolutely make a difference. The evidence is really overwhelming."
Mr Griffiths called for the 70 per cent cuts to youth services since 2010 to be reversed.
He said: "It needs to be brought back to original levels pre-70 per cent cuts and some more. These youth services are really crucial to young people's lives."