'Youth centre closures making anti-social behaviour in Pontefract worse'

Youth services across the country have been cut in recent years.
Youth services across the country have been cut in recent years.

Young people having "nowhere to go" is resulting in anti-social behaviour in Pontefract, a social worker turned councillor has said.

Young people having "nowhere to go" is resulting in anti-social behaviour in Pontefract, a social worker turned councillor has said.

Celia Loughran said that falling numbers of youth centres in the town and surrounding areas meant teenagers had little to do.

A total of 600 youth centres closed across the country between 2012 and 2016, according to research published by the YMCA last year.

Some Westminster politicians have drawn a link between cuts to youth services and crime among young people.

And speaking at a children and young people scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, Coun Loughran said that more needed to be done to keep older children out of trouble.

She said: "I'm very concerned, particularly around Pontefract where I represent, about anti-social behaviour.

"Teenage children have always wanted to congregate in town centre and do what they have to do - that's understandable. But I'm very worried that we haven't got the youth centres we used to have.

"I'd like to know if we (the council) are going to start trying to find more places, because they really need somewhere to go.

"It doesn't have to be posh, it just has to be somewhere with a couple of adults, preferably trained in safeguarding, where they can go after school."

In response, the council's director for children's services, Beate Wagner said: "I think the whole issue around youth work is reflected across the country, as people try to work out what they can afford and how they can do things differently.

"There is the possibility that some of the council's buildings could be used for this at other times of the day, whether young people would want to come into a building like that is another question, but I think there are opportunities to work with elected members on this."

Coun Loughran also raised the issue of children's mental health, which she said she was "very concerned about".

She added: "It seems that we've got a worsening situation in the district as a whole, with regard to some very serious incidents of self-harm with young people recently."