In recent years, the UK has struggled. Economic setbacks have led to austerity measures. There’s a housing crisis. There aren’t enough council houses and young people can’t get on the property ladder. Brexit remains controversial. The talks to set terms to leave the EU seem endless. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are looking for both the causes of and solutions to these issues.
In April 2018, MP Helen Hayes suggested that cuts to youth services funding were linked to an increase in gun and knife crime. This assertion was controversial. Hayes was correct in that funding has been cut for youth services. However, she didn’t provide sources for a direct link between the cuts and the crime. She also did not provide a transparent breakdown of where the cuts were made.
Youth services in the UK include a wide variety of programs. Care for at-risk children is one form of child services. During recent years, spending for children in care and at-risk children has not been cut. In fact, funding for those services have risen. Funding cuts have been made to services like Sure Start centers.
This early educational program is beloved. Sure Start centers provide overwhelmed parents with good advice and sometimes childcare. However, there is no way to prove that cuts to Sure Start are linked to violent crime. This is especially true as the people most impacted by Sure Start programs are small children. If these cuts do lead to increased crime, that will not be borne out for several years.
A common assertion by Labour and other left-wing politicians is that social programs and increased spending can make positive changes in at-risk communities. The focus is very much on nurture, not nature. This is an optimistic philosophy. Early interventions, in particular, are believed to be crucial. For this reason, funding for schools and children is seen as critical.
Funds for youth programs can seem very idealistic. They serve a clear practical purpose, though. Children who are abused, neglected and underfed cannot concentrate. They’re overly stressed and struggle to pay attention or learn effectively at school. Funding for at-risk children can help them to become stable adults in the future. However, it is difficult to connect specific cuts to specific outcomes. This is especially true of violent crime.