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Youth offending grant delay 'puts prevention at risk'

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Efforts to prevent young people getting involved in violent crime and drug dealing are being severely hampered by a delay in funding for youth offending teams, the Local Government Association has warned

The Ministry of Justice grant, which has been halved from £145m in 2010-11 to £71.5m, is yet to be announced for this financial year, two months after council budgets have been set.

The LGA said this makes it “extremely difficult” for councils to plan support, increasing the risk of young people becoming susceptible to knife crime and being exploited by gangs running ‘county lines’ drug dealing.

The large reduction in the youth offending grant and the delay in this year’s allocations, which are administered by the Youth Justice Board, has left councils having to cover the shortfall from their own budgets, which are already overstretched and under growing pressure, the LGA said.

Earlier this year it found 133 out of 152 councils overspent their children’s services budgets by a total of £806m in 2017-18 and has highlighted an estimated funding gap of £3.1bn by 2025.

The LGA says youth offending teams have been successful in preventing young people becoming involved in crime, with an 86% fall in the number of children entering the youth justice system for the first time over the last decade and a 78% drop in arrests.

Chair of the LGA’s children and young people board Anntoinette Bramble (Lab) described the funding delay as creating “unacceptable uncertainty”.

She added: “Councils are determined to do all they can to protect young people and keep them safe, but their efforts are being seriously hampered by the lack of clarity around such a vital source of funding.

“Funding for youth offending teams has already more than halved since 2010, and the government needs to act now by announcing it will at least maintain existing funding levels this year.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The budget for the coming financial year will be set shortly.”

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