Ilford youth centre boss warns bystanders could be injured unless more done for young people

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 April 2018

Irfan Shah, manager of the Frenford Youth Club. Picture: KEN MEARS

Irfan Shah, manager of the Frenford Youth Club. Picture: KEN MEARS


A youth club manager has warned innocent bystanders will become casualties of youth violence unless more is done for young people.

Mr Shah said money is not the only answer when it comes to turning young people's lives around. Picture: KEN MEARSMr Shah said money is not the only answer when it comes to turning young people's lives around. Picture: KEN MEARS

Irfan Shah of Frenford Youth Club in Ilford said there is a small group of youngsters who don’t fear the consequences of turning to crime after growing up in poverty when asked if there was a link between cuts and a rise in fatal attacks.

“It’s tragic we’ve got to the stage we are now,” Mr Shah said.

“We need to invest more in young people. The majority are good people. We need to promote the positive things they do. And as youth workers we want to be at the forefront of the fight,” he added.

The comments came at a time of growing concern about knife and gun violence with speculation a recent spate of killings is linked to cuts in council youth budgets.

“It will only be a matter of time until bystanders become casualties,” Mr Shah said.

A report from Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry showed cuts to youth service budgets across the capital total £38million since 2011. But of the 30 London boroughs which responded to her freedom of information request Redbridge reported a 9 per cent increase in spending from £1,250,913 in 2011 to £1,367,081 this year.

Frenford, in The Drive, needs to raise half a million pounds a year from grants and donations to cover expenses but Mr Shah said such high costs could not be maintained for the long term.

However, Mr Shah – with more than 13 years’ experience in youth work – said money was not the only answer.

“The youth service in Redbridge is next to nothing. But it’s not only about cuts it’s also about changing attitudes towards young people. We all have a part to play,” he said.

Commenting on Berry’s report Rosemary Watt-Wyness, chief executive of the London Youth network said: “This makes public what is sadly an ongoing reality for our 320 members.

“All community youth organisation have been on the receiving end of sustained funding cuts over the past six years, with the £39 million cut just from council youth service budgets across London representing the tip of the iceberg.

“It is a tragedy to think of the loss of 800 full-time youth workers and the important work they could have been doing to support young people in areas like tackling youth violence.

“We continue to call for sustainable funding of youth services and statutory recognition of their importance in the lives of young people. Access to free, high-quality youth services for all, to complement the education system, is essential to building our young people’s confidence and resilience,” she added.

A Redbridge Council spokeswoman said the figure used in the report for 2017-18 is correct and relates to all council youth and adolescent services. The 2011-12 figure is also correct and relates to the spend on just the youth service at that time. However, she said it isn’t possible to compare the two because they record different things. She added the council has no plans to reduce the capacity of the youth service but will be changing the way it operates, focusing on more targeted provision.

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