“We’re losing young people to the streets”: How cuts to vital services are damaging Sheffield’s youth

Volunteers fighting for vulnerable young people are struggling to keep running vital youth groups due to a lack of funding.

Safiya Saeed, leader of Reach Up Youth Group, which provides support for around 70 young people in Burngreave, Sheffield, said cuts have been damaging for young people in the area.

Ms Saeed, a mum to five, said: “We’re losing more and more young people to the street, drugs, and to mental health issues like depression. They are being deprived of the safety net youth groups provide – the positive networking, sessions and mentors.”

Reach Up helps teenagers aged 11-18 engage with sports, improve their mental and emotional health, and gain qualifications for their careers.

The group receives funding from Yorkshire Sport Foundation, but Ms Saeed has now had to start contributing from her own pocket.

“It’s very hard, I’m a mother of five, and sometimes I have to personally finance the sessions, or make sure some of the children have a meal to eat, or pay for bus fares,” she said.

“It’s affecting the group leaders too. I feel quite lonely as a coordinator of this service because we’ve been left alone with no support. It just gets exhausting when you’re on your own.”

She added the council does not provide funding, despite her appeal at full council on 3 April.

Cabinet member for Health and Social Care, Chris Peace, expressed her sympathies with the group at the meeting, and blamed the lack of central funding from the Conservative government.

The positive impact of a mentor programme within Reach Up, Big Brother Burngreave, which connects secondary school students with college students, has been noticed by staff at Longley Park sixth form in S5.

Ms Saeed said: “Colleges are asking us to come see them as well because they have seen the shift in attitudes, they can’t stop talking about it.”

Three of the oldest group members will also be leaving for university this summer.

Another group changing the lives of young people in Sheffield is youth homeless charity, Roundabout.

Ben Keegan has been the Chief Executive for the charity for 13 years, and said the group’s funding has fallen by 50% in the last eight years.

The charity has managed to keep growing since then by raising funds through donations, and focusing on preventing young people becoming homeless rather than just helping those already sleeping on the street.

Mr Keegan said: “We have not reduced any of our services. We have just had to change the way we are funded. Roundabout has grown in the past few years – we are helping more people than ever before.”

The charity recieves 25% of it’s funding from the council, 50% from central government funding, and relies on grants from charities and donations for the other 25%.

“We think Roundabout has a dramatic effect on people in lots of different ways. We help about 300 per month,” Mr Keegan added.

“Some people are sleeping on the streets and we give them somewhere to sleep. We also help keep families with troubles together so people don’t become homeless because of a split.”