Government Funds New Bill in Favour of the Nation’s Struggling Youth Centres

Natalie Olofsson for Distilled Post

Wanstead Youth Centre, one of the last remaining in East London, is threatening to close. Located next to both a rugby and bowling club on the outskirts of the city, the centre is asking for more funding amid increasing prices of maintenance and a lack of staff. In response, Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre Campaign Group is advocating for increased budgets, for a facility vital to the community. Without this investment, approximated to  £2.4 million, the centre will be unsafe for use. The group is one of many across the UK, as youth centres struggle to cope with funding cuts and increased costs.

Youth centres, which provide a second home to those under 18, reduce youth crime, unemployment, and hope to improve well-being. Resources range from small rooms run by supportive adults to sports clubs, centres for art, and free music classes. These centres run primarily on government and council funding. But two third are operating at a reduced level. Many will close in the coming year, leaving vulnerable youth throughout the country without assistance. 

In response, the government is providing action which will revitalise the nation’s assistance for youth. 

The Government’s Youth Investment Fund, announced to the public in March 2023, allocates funding to beneficiaries to rebuild and renovate youth centres. The grant will provide 43 youth centres £90 million to divide among them. Remarkably, an estimated 45,000 young people will have newfound access to youth centres throughout the country. 

Centres selected for grants nationwide

Centres selected for grants include those in London and the surrounding area, the Midlands, Northern England, and parts of Scotland. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, an advocate for youth centre support, is excited to see the upcoming developments. “I want every young person to have the opportunity to access the kinds of life-changing activities which expand their horizons”, she says in an interview in March. The move also includes funding to specific nationwide groups, such as The Scout Association, Volunteer Police Cadets, and St John Ambulance. 

The new development further highlights the deterioration of youth centres which has continued for the past decade. In London, youth centres have struggled to stay open during and after Covid-19 lockdowns. From 2011 to 2021, 130 out of 300 youth centres closed, as 600 full-time youth worker positions were cut by London councils. In portions of South London, where up to half of children live in poverty, the Marcus Lipton Youth Club is the last one remaining. The centre is cited as a haven for youth in the area, providing counselling, warm meals, and sports and activities.

New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC): innovative uses for decreased funds

Further north in London, the New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC) is an attentive youth centre near the British Library and Kings Cross Station, focusing on youth homelessness and physical safety. The centre has seen increases in both non-profit costs and those experiencing poverty. “The most significant impact is the increase in young people needing our help in the first place, which is stretching our frontline services to their limit”, says Polly Stephens, Communications and Campaigns Manager for NHYC. “A lot of our service users come to us for food, which can often be their only hot meal of the day.”

Youth centres such as NHYC are helping those in need due to inflation, often at the cost of their own budgets. “We rolled out a Young Londoners Winter Relief scheme in partnership with Greater Change, to provide lifeline support for young people,” Polly says. “We also lead the London Youth Gateway”. LYG is a collaboration between seven youth homelessness services, developing a scalable way to meet their increased demand. 

NHYC also works to improve job prospects for youth long-term, with a team specialised in education and training. In comparison to many youth centres, NHYC is grateful for its stability. “We are safe for the time being,” Polly says, as she discusses their current funding. “[We] have a diverse mix of income streams, but in the charity sector nothing is certain long term.”

The Government’s Youth Investment Fund, by providing youth facilities with more support, will increase the stability of the charity sector. As funding rolls out throughout the UK the nation’s youth will have more resources for mental and physical well-being. Hopefully, the action will lighten the blow of increased prices for young people.