1. ITV Report

Are youth clubs becoming a thing of the past?

The amount of money being spent on youth services in the Anglia region has been slashed by around £20m since 2010.

It means the traditional youth clubs that so many of us remember from our childhoods are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

But, for the youth workers determined to keep them going, they are often the first line of defence when it comes to spotting young people in need of a little extra help.

From developing social skills to improving a teenager's mental health, free, open-access clubs can help prevent future problems before they even start.

. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

"Youth clubs in general are so important. And it's not just because they give people somewhere to go and they've got the activities - one of the key things is the youth workers, and what they offer and the relationship they build with young people.

"I think it's unique from the relationships they have at schools and sports clubs. They have that time to talk to the young people, build up the relationships slowly - and if they have any issues or require further support they can signpost them to other services."

– Diana Hedley, Youth Manager for Groundwork.

Youth clubs cost around £20,000 a year to keep going. In Sandy in Bedfordshire, Groundwork, the charity that runs it, gets funding from Central Bedfordshire Council as well as national pots like the lottery and Department for Education.

But local authorities are not legally bound to provide, or even fund, youth services.

Since austerity measures kicked in in 2010, many have been forced to cut the money they set aside for youth clubs and other activities.

Norfolk and Suffolk have both scrapped their in-house youth services completely.

Both offer grants to outside organisations - but not on the same scale as the money previously available. In 2010, Norfolk had a budget of £3.74m for youth services. It now awards grants of less than £1m to third-party organisations.

  • Cambridgeshire's budget for directly provided youth services is down 74%
  • Central Bedfordshire - down 73%
  • Milton Keynes - down 66%
  • Essex - down 28%
  • Hertfordshire - down 8%

Increased demand on areas like adult social services and children in care mean councils have had to focus the resources they have on the young people who need it most.

They hope charities and other organisations will step in where they have been forced to make cuts.

A dance class at the Groundwork youth club in Sandy. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

"Our approach was to develop Youth Advisory Boards, made up of community representatives and young people themselves, to commission services based on the needs of young people in their area.

"The aim was to build capacity in the voluntary sector and to empower young people to make decisions for their own communities.

"The approach has received national recognition and we are now looking at how we can ensure services are further targeted at the young people that need them most. "At the same time the council is investing up to £15m over the next four years to further strengthen the early help and prevention on offer to young people and their families."

– Norfolk County Council spokesman.

But the union Unison - which represented many of the 3,000 youth workers who have lost their jobs nationally since 2010 - fears those decisions have been short sighted.

Seven years into austerity, they believe it may only be now that the real impact of cuts to youth services will start to hit home.

"We surveyed Unison members who work in youth services, two-thirds of them predicted young people would find it harder to get into employment as a result of cuts in youth services.

"And nearly all of them predicted that crime is likely to rise, that young people are more likely to have substance abuse issues that won't get spotted."

– Mike Short, Unison.