The Tory-led Government’s latest attack is on teams who tackle serious youth offending, risking a rise in youth crime in London.
Youth offending teams work with young people who are involved in serious crime including gun, knife and gang-related violence. They make sure the courts are properly briefed about young criminals before they are sentenced, and they make sure the problems that lead young people into this kind of crime are tackled, including drug abuse, violent extremism, and domestic violence. They play a valuable role in backing up the work of the police so more officers can stay on the streets where residents want them to be.
There are many things that can lead some young people into crime. It’s worth saying here, loud and clear, that the vast majority of young people do not get involved in crime, whatever background they come from. But we know that youth offending goes up when young people lose hope.
What this Government has done is rain down a storm of attacks that is having a very damaging effect on young people. Youth unemployment is spiralling upwards. Education Maintenance Allowances – payments that help young people from poorer families stay on at school or college – have been slashed. The cap on tuition fees has trebled, scaring many young people away from higher education. Help to get young people into work has been decimated. When Governments create youth despair like this, youth crime goes up. So cutting the number of professionals who help steer young offenders away from a life of crime at a time like this is dangerously irresponsible.
And yet that’s exactly what this Tory-Lib Dem Government has done. The average cut to Youth Offending Teams in London is 23%. Some boroughs face a cut of 30%. And it’s coming with only a month’s notice, so councils, the police, the probation service and others have no time to plan for the funding reduction in any careful way. And, of course, it comes on top of cuts in police numbers across the capital.
This latest cut will create misery. More young people will face life in jail because they won’t be helped to break the cycle of offending. More communities will be terrorised by gang violence. More innocent people will become victims of crime as levels of offending increase. Leaving aside the human misery, this cut makes no sense in money terms either. It will cost more to clean up the crime that is caused, care for the victims, imprison the offenders, than it would cost to stop the crime happening in the first place. This cut makes absolutely no sense.
If crime levels start to rise in coming months, remember the Tories and Lib Dems whose blinkered choices let it happen.