Public sector cuts: Rise in youth crime feared as key teams are reduced

Ministers told that councils will find it ‘exceptionally difficult to maintain a basic youth offending team’

A crime prevention project in Cornwall that has helped more than 960 young people since it started in 2003 is to close at the end of this month because its £185,000 funding from a government local area agreement is to end. The project, White Gold, a partnership between the police and Cornwall youth offending team (YOT), is an early casualty of funding cuts.

Nationally, ministers have been warned that funding reductions will mean that some of the 157 local authorities across England and Wales will find it “exceptionally difficult to maintain a basic youth offending team”. Sandwell council in the West Midlands has placed the entire 80-strong YOT staff on its “at risk of redundancy register”, as cuts of up to 30% in youth justice funding start to bite across England and Wales.

The national network of YOTs was set up to bring together the work of the police, probation, social services, education and others in tackling youth offending, with significant results in cutting crime, which council leaders now fear will rise.

The decision by Sandwell follows three years in which the number of young people in the borough entering the criminal justice system dropped by 400 – more than 60%.

Councillor Derek Rowley said: “The severity of these forced cuts from central government, coupled with the fact that it has yet to confirm significant other funding, has left us with no choice but to put all staff in the service ‘at risk’. Even if the funding is forthcoming, we are still facing about a 25%-30% reduction on last year’s budget.”

YOTs were told this year to expect a 10% cut in their Whitehall funding – which accounts for about a third of their resources – but have just been told this is being doubled to 20%.

London councils have written to ministers warning that cuts of up to 30% in the capital will set back efforts to reduce teenage crime. Hounslow YOT faces a 32% cut in its Whitehall funding, Enfield a 31% cut and Barnet a 28% reduction. They said that giving them only one month’s notice before the new allocations came into effect at the end of this month was “not acceptable”.