LETTERS: Don't cut youth services

I feel highly-disappointed to hear of the new round of cuts to the area's youth services described in the Observer, which follows the previous cut of £2m across West Sussex.

I have myself worked in the past, as a part-time youth worker, in several Chichester district youth clubs, and so know how even then, there were always spending constraints, limiting what we provided.

As an older person – I am now 66 – I feel sure that my age group, though ourselves facing all sorts of severe cuts, still get more than our share of all local services, and so if we continue to allow money to be drained away from our youth facilities, we are effectively stealing our young people’s future, to pay for the present of the old.

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It is a relatively economical service to provide, but it forms one of the three main branches of support for young people, along with family life and the school system, and can do a great deal for those children who cannot find the support they need in those two other areas. Thus it is actually a great bargain, and cuts here will actually do more to increase the cost in workload and finance for various other parts of society.

No cut should be allowed if it actually INCREASES the cost for our society!

Consider some hypothetical cases, of young people in danger of going off the rails, and falling through the increasingly-large cracks in their care and support.

They could find themselves alone and alienated, and seeing with their own eyes that no-one cares about them: they could progressively move into being abused, anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour, the juvenile and adult court services, imprisonment, mental and emotional ill-health, becoming less and less employable or able to contribute any useful energy to society, and in turn leading on to another successive generation of family problems.

There are already many keen volunteers giving valuable support to their local youth clubs, but how many more can we count on turning up now, and how much experience can they draw on, working in the future in the absence of professionally-trained youth workers?

The presence of an alert, trained, and experienced youth worker, at a crucial point in their lives, could catch young people as they begin to fall. One can imagine that just one individual, in a worst case, could otherwise cost society – and therefore local government funds – through a lifetime, more than the entire amount saved by such foolish, short-sighted, and harmful cuts

Richard Lanchester

West Dean