PM announces £80m funding for youth projects
Theresa May has announced £80 million of funding for youth projects in England in the latest stage of her drive to create a "great meritocracy".
The Prime Minister's announcement, which follows her controversial plans to shake-up the education system, involves money from the Government and National Lottery funds.
The initiative comes as the Government prepares to introduce legislation to put the National Citizen Service on a permanent legal footing.
The money announced by Mrs May will be split between the Youth Investment Fund and the Step Up To Serve #iwill social action campaign.
Downing Street said local youth groups would be able to bid for a share of the cash, which could be used to fund sports clubs, arts or drama courses, training or volunteering opportunities.
Mrs May said: "I want Britain to be the great meritocracy of the world and a fundamental part of this is ensuring all young people get the best possible start in life.
"This new funding demonstrates our commitment, and will be a huge boost for youth groups across the country - giving young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to gain the experiences and skills they need to succeed in life.
"This is all part of our determination to build a country that works for everyone and ensure that young people can go as far as their talents allow, regardless of their backgrounds."
The announcement comes after Mrs May unveiled plans for a return of grammar schools as part of her "great meritocracy" social reform agenda, despite opposition from some experts and former education secretary Nicky Morgan.
The £40 million Youth Investment Fund will be open to projects in targeted disadvantaged communities, with funding available up to 2020 to help organisations invest and plan for the future.
In addition, the Government and Big Lottery Fund will continue their commitment to Step Up to Serve's #iwill campaign and will each invest a further £20 million each by the end of 2020.
Big Lottery Fund chief executive Dawn Austwick said: "Putting young people in the driving seat to design and deliver both the Youth Investment Fund and involving them in the development of the #iwill fund will be vital to the success.
"The investment fund will help build a stronger, more sustainable and more responsive youth sector across England, centred on the ambitions of those it benefits most."
Under plans announced in the Queen's Speech, the National Citizen Service - which was championed by former prime minister David Cameron - will be placed on a statutory footing.
The National Citizen Service Bill will be introduced next week and is also expected to place a new duty on schools and local authorities to promote the scheme to all young people.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "Any new money for youth services is of course to be welcomed, but the Prime Minister needs to be straight with the country and tell them why she was part of the Government that closed 800 Sure Start Centres, trebled university tuition fees, failed on high-quality apprenticeships and implemented savage cuts to local authorities budgets that have devastated youth services."