More than 1,000 youth offending team jobs are at risk because of uncertainty over future funding, Yot managers have warned ministers.
Staff are reportedly leaving because there has been no guarantee over whether current Youth Justice Board prevention funding of £34m will be extended beyond next year.
The YJB pledged the money over two years in 2006 to develop a comprehensive prevention strategy, but many projects could close if this is not continued, the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers has said.
In a letter to home secretary Jacqui Smith, justice secretary Jack Straw and children’s secretary Ed Balls, AYOTM chair Mike Thomas said projects including Youth Inclusion Projects (Yips) could be cut if money was not secured.
Thomas also raised concerns over whether Yots will receive adequate funding from the £396m Children’s Fund allocation from 2008-11. Currently, around a quarter of the fund is ringfenced for Yots, but ring-fencing is due to cease from 2008.
Thomas told Community Care the funding situation “flew in the face” of Balls’ focus on prevention in youth justice since taking office in June.
“Everyone is talking about prevention being key but we can’t plan without funding,” he said.
A source close to the YJB confirmed there was “still no decision” regarding prevention money.
The source said that while the Department for Children, Families and Schools, which has joint responsibility for the YJB with the Ministry of Justice, wanted to take responsibility for prevention policy, the DSCF was “assuming” the Home Office would provide the funding. The Home Office lost responsibility for the YJB in May.
The source added: “Given that we are no longer within the Home Office orbit, the likelihood of them stumping up is probably limited. I fear practitioners are beginning to vote with their feet and that we will shortly see good projects begin to close down.”
Les Lawrence, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said Yots needed to work closely with children’s trusts to resolve the uncertainty over the Children’s Fund as soon as possible.
He added: “The government’s youth strategy [published in July] contained the announcement that the Youth Justice Board would add an extra 10% to prevention funding. The sooner this happens the better.”
A MoJ spokesperson said government spending from 2008 onwards would be finalised in the comprehensive spending review, due next month.