Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I completely agree about the importance of this debate: this should be a No. 1 priority for us. Our young people need to feel safe; they need to know that we believe in them. They are, after all, our future: our future doctors, nurses, engineers, artists, journalists, and even our future politicians. I understand that in the Gallery this evening we have a few would-be future politicians, and I thank them for coming along this evening.
I am chair of the cross-party Youth Violence Commission and we have been examining the root causes of youth violence. In July this year we published our initial policy recommendations, in which we called for the development of a public health model to tackle violence. I am delighted that since then Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced the establishment of a London violence reduction unit, which will follow a public health approach in the capital, and last week the Home Secretary also stated that we must treat violence as an infectious disease, backing the adoption of a public health approach. But now we must turn those words into action.
Tonight, I am focusing on the important role that youth services play in tackling youth violence and on how these services fit into a successful public health approach. I have met countless organisations up and down the country that do excellent work with young people, but cuts to youth services have left the sector hollowed out, inconsistent and disjointed, and it is young people who are ultimately losing out. Since 2010, at least £387 million has been cut from youth services, and more than 600 youth centres closed between 2012 and 2016. The only programme we see consistently funded is the National Citizen Service. While youth services have suffered real-terms cuts of 54% since 2011, funding for the NCS has increased annually, rising from a three-year allocation of £168 million when it was first set up to £181 million last year alone. The NCS is a two-week programme once a year. Our young people need year-round support. I wonder whether the NCS would pass the stringent criteria that many other charities have to go through when seeking funding.