Spare a thought for the "lost generation"

The loss of local sevices will be a massive blow to young people in deprived areas.

Images of university students protesting against increased tuition fees may have made the headlines recently, but little has been said about how young people under 18 are being affected by the drive to cut public spending.

Across the country, young people face the prospect of losing vital services ranging from youth clubs to specialist advice and guidance services as a result of the decisions made in Whitehall and beyond.

A survey published in October by Children & Young People Now magazine as part of its For Youth's Sake campaign found that 95 per cent of local authority youth services face cutbacks and 82 per cent of voluntary sector youth organisations will have to close projects as a result of funding shortages.

In some areas such as West Sussex and Birmingham, cuts to youth services are expected run into millions of pounds, leading to fears about what level of support will be offered to young people. The loss of such services will be a massive blow to young people, especially those living in deprived areas where there is little else on offer to teenagers.

I myself come from a one-parent family and have grown up living on a deprived council estate in Ashford, Kent, described last year by the Daily Mirror as a "social concentration camp". It would have been easy for me to hang around with the wrong crowed but luckily a new youth centre was built just yards from my home. Put simply, it changed my life. I first attended because I wanted to play football but later in my teens the youth workers encouraged me to get involved in my local youth council and other projects. I'm now chairman of Kent Youth County Council and a Member of the Youth Parliament for Kent.

I'm not alone. Other young people I speak to say youth programmes have been life-changing and credit youth workers with giving them the motivation to pursue their goals in life.

Youth work goes far beyond running fun sessions for young people. Youth workers often pick up the pieces left by formal education and assist in young people's personal and social development. Many teenagers have untapped talent that is just waiting to be recognised. Through youth programmes, they are given the opportunity to discover their true potential.

A challenge for society is to ensure that all young people, wherever they are growing up, have the opportunities to extend their learning and access support of the highest quality. By providing young people with a range services through youth centres, detached or outreach projects or through counselling and advice services, this can be achieved.

Young people in this country have already been described as the "lost generation" due to the high numbers of us who drop out of education, employment and training. Are we sure then that we want to remove the very institutions that will find us?

Dara Farrell, 17, is a young ambassador for the For Youth's Sake campaign and founder of Save our Services.