‘Huge’ cuts to youth services affect spending on North Somerset teens with learning difficulties

Funding cuts have affected youth service provision. Picture: Getty Images

Funding cuts have affected youth service provision. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘Huge’ funding reductions have forced spending on vulnerable teenagers in North Somerset to be halved inside five years.

Department for Education figures show North Somerset Council's spending on children's and youth services have dropped six per cent in real terms since 2013.

But within this, spending on services for people aged 13-19 and under-25s with learning difficulties have dropped by 50 per cent in real terms over the same period.

The Local Government Association has warned there is rising demand for preventative services which are being 'greatly reduced', and children's charity Barnardo's believes it is essential teenagers have access to help.

But North Somerset says Government funding cuts have forced its hand.

In 2012/13, spending on youth services in North Somerset stood at the equivalent of £1.6million in today's money.

But in 2017/18, that figure had fallen to £797,000.

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Youth justice spending, which is used to fund teams which work to prevent children's involvement in crime, has also been cut - with spending falling almost a quarter in real terms to £741,000 in 2017/18.

In contrast, spending on 'looked-after children' in residential or foster care has increased.

In 2013/14, looked-after children accounted to 38 per cent of the council's youth services budget, compared to 46 per cent today - as cuts to preventative services leave more children in crisis.

A council spokesman told the Mercury that the authority has faced increasing funding pressures.

They added: "Councils have faced huge reductions in the amount of Government funding over the past ten years. Our figures are similar to the national picture.

"This fall in funding from Government, combined with an increase in the number of children we look after and increasing placement costs, means our resources for preventive services are greatly reduced.

"Nevertheless we have retained all of our children's centres and they have a positive impact on families by providing support to keep them together.

"We also have a successful partnership with CoreAssets who are working well with some families to support them in caring for their older children."