There’s a very good chance that half of you reading this didn’t vote in the 2015 general election.
In fact, the national turnout for 18-25 year-olds in 2015 was a miserly 43 percent. That’s approximately 4 million unused votes. With a government that’s holding onto power with a little under 2 million votes, it is obvious that your vote does matter.
To notice the very real impact the decisions of parliament have on our Island, you need only look at the council. Between 2010 and 2015, the government cut council funding by 40 percent. By 2020, there is expected to be cuts of another 6.7%.
Organisations like the Island’s Youth Offending Team have received extensive cuts and, as a result, between 2012-13 nearly half of young offenders on the Isle of Wight went on to commit further crimes. In 2006 that rate on the Island was 37.4 percent.
On top of that, mental health issues have never been more prevalent and suicide remains the leading cause of death for the under 30s. This fact has done little to protect or improve under-fire Isle of Wight mental health services however, and the IW Clinical Commissioning Group recently announced no new money would be spent on mental health in the next two years.
The Isle of Wight Youth Trust, which offers counselling and support, lost all of its council funding over two years ago. It does still continues to operate and do valuable work, but is now burdened by the need to raise additional funds.
While the youth support services have been cut back, the youth opportunity services have been completely rebuilt. In previous years, these opportunities primarily consisted of youth clubs but the new programme is considerably more varied. This, however has come at the cost of security.
For 2014 to 2017, the council budget for youth opportunities stands at just under £1 million for the whole period. While many aspects of youth services, such as the Duke of Edinburgh, became part of different budgets, there has still been a cut of £200,000 per year.
The funding ends in March 2017, but the council has promised there would be a six figure sum on the table to replace it.
But chair of planning for Ryde Town Council, Cllr Tim Wakeley, is skeptical.
“It’s going to be closer to £100,000 than £1 million, so again there will be wholesale slaughter of youth provision post-March next year. The outlook is extremely bleak.”
Eleanor Bell, early help service manager for the Isle of Wight Council, sees things differently.
She said: “We have more choice now than when we had our old approach and there is a wider range of youth activities. So actually for young people, I think it’s a better offer even though there is less money.
“I think it shows that sometimes, having to do things differently means that we can come up with something better. Obviously if we had more money, we could do something even better, but actually having less makes the organisation reflect and think a bit more.”
The current £1 million has been divided between 12 groups and organisations across the Island providing a range of different services, including youth centres, faith groups, and confidential provision to young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Tony McCarthy, community development worker for Ventnor town council, said: “We’ve got a huge range organisations and that’s the strength of our new partnership. There is an incredible range and diversity of groups working together to provide youth services on the Island, and each one is doing it in a different way.”
With the funding ending in March, the need to secure a new source of income for these schemes is immediate, but Mr McCarthy is optimistic: “If you look at the range of youth services, we are in a very strong position to attract funding. When you look at the range and depth of expertise among these organisations, I am very confident.”
In previous years, the services enjoyed guaranteed funding, but now they need to secure revenue not only from the council, but also organisations such as the Lottery Fund. Despite optimism from those involved in the schemes, the future of these provisions hang in the balance as there is no safety net or security.
As Tim Wakeley said: “If we can’t continue to provide some kind of service post-March the risk is that all of those members of staff go elsewhere, all those expertise are lost, and you’re starting to build up again from nothing.”
Recently elected chair of the IW Liberal Democrats, Nicholas Belfitt, said: “Because the services have been cut back so much, they’re not actually able to provide for young people. So the argument then becomes that because the services aren’t doing the job, they get scrapped entirely.”