4. Funding

This is a chapter of 'Bright Futures: our vision for youth services' – the LGA's long-term vision for youth services and provision.


Where many youth services were traditionally funded by councils, the landscape has changed significantly since 2010. Councils are facing a £2 billion funding gap for children’s services by 2020, and were forced to overspend on their children’s services budgets by £605 million across England in 2015/16. Government funding for the Early Intervention Grant has been cut by almost £500 million since 2013 and is projected to drop by a further £183 million by 2020. At the same time, demand for child protection services has increased significantly.

These two factors together have led to a major scaling back of universal youth services as councils have been forced to concentrate funding on those children and young people in the most urgent need, rather than the preventative early help and edge of care services – including youth provision – that might reduce need later on. We know that providing early help to children and young people not only supports better outcomes, but it saves significant amounts of money further down the line. The Early Intervention Foundation, for example, estimates that nearly £17 billion is spent every year on late intervention, with £6.4 billion of that falling on local authorities, in particular children’s services.

With limited funding available from councils, many organisations are often pursuing the same funding from external sources such as charities and trusts. Councils have an opportunity to invest smaller amounts in core funding for groups so that they can access further funding, and to coordinate funding bids, supporting smaller organisations to come together to deliver work that can contribute to the wider vision. Opportunities for organisations to collaborate meaningfully should be explored wherever possible to support collective impact. Support for writing funding bids can also be helpful, particularly where organisations have limited or part-time staffing.

In some areas, improving the use of council and community assets has been invaluable, and offers an alternative way of supporting service delivery than financial support. Finding ways to allow easier sharing of assets can improve the viability of, and access to, services across the area. This can apply to buildings, funding and resources – both owned by the council and community organisations, and by private and voluntary partners – as well as staff and volunteers.

Using the council’s role as a community and partnership leader to facilitate discussions with and investment from the local private sector can help to support delivery of some youth services. Involving local businesses in the development of the vision for local youth services can support this, encouraging buy-in from the beginning and ensuring that the vision helps to support young people to develop the skills they need for the local job market when they reach adulthood. 

Some authorities are looking at alternative delivery models in order to deliver services in different ways, depending on the local context. In some areas, Youth Mutuals have been developed to open up alternative sources of funding and to allow the generation of income, while in others, Young People’s Foundations bring together the public, private, voluntary and community sector to make the most effective use of all available funding and assets. In all models, the council as the body with the statutory responsibility will maintain a key role in supporting and setting the direction of local youth provision.