‘Tower Hamlets Young’ will see the opening of a youth centre in every ward, addressing years of funding cuts for youth services
Tower Hamlets Council has invested £13.7 million into the launch of its new youth service, announced on Monday 17 July at Haileybury youth centre in Stepney.
The new and improved service, known as Young Tower Hamlets, includes the opening of 20 new youth centres that will ensure there is a centre in every ward.
Tower Hamlets is the youngest borough in the country and has a median age of 30. Over half of its children are living in poverty, the highest rate of any London borough.
The youth service investment forms part of a wider £19 million investment into young people including the expansion of free school meals to all secondary school students, university bursaries, and educational maintenance allowances.
The investment in young people makes up a large part of Mayor Rahman’s ambitious anti-austerity budget that has come under criticism for being financially unsustainable.
Mayor Rahman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that investing in the borough’s youth service was always a top priority of his since coming into office in May 2022.
He said: ‘I am the product of an overcrowded household. When I was young and growing up in Tower Hamlets, it was the space afforded to me by the borough’s youth centres that kept me going.’
‘There is a correlation between education, schools, opportunities and youth services. Young Tower Hamlets will provide excellent opportunities alongside a safe space for every young person in the borough, to improve their life chances.’
This investment follows a reduction in youth services funding both nationally and locally, which has seen the closure of 18 youth centres across Tower Hamlets in recent years.
A report published by Green Party assembly member Sian Berry revealed that Tower Hamlets and Sutton had made the biggest cuts to their youth service budgets in 2021 of any London boroughs.
Katy Thompson, Youth Empowerment Coordinator at Spotlight Youth Centre in Poplar, said: ‘We don’t want just new buildings, but a place where young people can truly be supported. Where they can figure out who they want to be.
‘Building the basic skill sets like communication and confidence, you can’t do that without incredible people. So having an incredible staff team to help those new services should be a priority.’
The new youth centres will focus on supporting young people over the age of 16 as they transition into education, training and employment.
The service aims to prevent young people from offending and entering the criminal justice system and increase employment opportunities in both paid and voluntary youth work roles.
Free opportunities and support will be available for young people in Tower Hamlets, including a range of activities from boxing to live music for children and teenagers this summer.
For more articles about young people in Tower Hamlets, find our piece about the challenges faced by female Muslim students pursuing careers after education.
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