The number of youth workers in Croydon – the borough with the largest child population in London – has fallen by 69% in four years.
A freedom of information request revealed that in an area with about 40,000 residents aged 11-18, full time jobs in youth work plunged from 61 in 2013-14, to just 19 in 2017-2018.
In addition to this, the total amount spent on youth services in the borough dropped from more than £3.8million in 2013-14, to £794,000 in 2017-18.
According to the council, spending figures between 2013 and 2016 are incomparable to those given for 2016/17 due to ‘multiple restructures and changes to service provision’.
Magdalene Adenaike, founder of Music Relief, a youth organisation in Croydon, said: “It’s very disturbing to see the figures.
Individuals and organisations with great intentions to support the youths are unfortunately being forced to seek alternative employment due to lack of funds.
“The young people are left without the support they desperately need and the consequences as we now see are very dire.
“We need financial support to help us continue the great work we do with the youths.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly called on the Government to reverse cuts to youth services to help tackle the recent rise in knife crime across the city – and Croydon has one of the highest rates of knife crime in London.
Two of last year’s most high profile cases involved 17-year-old Aren Mali, killed in Croydon town centre’s main shopping street, and 16-year-old Jermaine Goupall murdered in Thornton Heath.
Mr Khan tweeted on January 4: “Government cuts to youth services, education, probation & the police are letting young Londoners down. They need to urgently prioritise these services if we are to tackle crime across our city.”
Government cuts to youth services, education, probation & the police are letting young Londoners down. They need to urgently prioritise these services if we are to tackle crime across our city. https://t.co/Qgq5TiihnC
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) January 4, 2018
A Croydon Council spokesperson said wider government budget cuts were to blame for the figures showing a drop in youth services spending.
He highlighted a new youth engagement strategy implemented last year. “We have since shaped our delivery to reflect the needs of communities across the borough and increased our face to face sessions with young people,” he said.
“You will see from your campaigns there is a strong focus on giving young people a real voice in local decision-making.”
In a cabinet meeting on October 18 last year, Croydon Council set out its strategy for ‘championing children in Croydon’, which they estimated would cost £10,000.
As part of the strategy, a Young Mayor of Croydon will be elected this spring by 11-18 year-olds who live in the borough.
The Young Major will serve a fixed term and work with other young people to manage a budget that will benefit local voluntary sector groups.