PM announces £80m for youth projects in England
Funding of £80m will be given to youth projects in England, Theresa May has announced.
The prime minister said groups in disadvantaged areas would be able to bid for the grants, for projects such as sports, drama and voluntary work.
Mrs May said the investment was the latest stage of her drive to create what she calls a "great meritocracy".
Labour said it welcomed the move but claimed it followed years of cuts to such services.
The initiative will be funded by the government and the National Lottery with grants to be distributed via the Youth Investment Fund and the Step Up To Serve #iwill social action campaign.
It is part of the prime minister's so-called social reform agenda which launched last week with her plans to revolutionise the education system and bring back grammar schools.
Mrs May has pledged to ensure young people are selected based on their abilities and talents rather than their social background.
"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," she said.
"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 a report by Unison claimed youth services across the UK were heading for collapse.
The report, published last month, said since 2012 some 600 youth centres have shut, 3,650 youth staff lost their jobs, and 139,000 youth places been axed because of council cutbacks.
It said an estimated £387m had been cut from youth service budgets since 2010, adding there was "more of the same for youth services in the years to come" with those most in need being left without support.
Big Lottery Fund chief executive Dawn Austwick said the £80m would "help build a stronger, more sustainable and more responsive youth sector across England, centred on the ambitions of those it benefits most".
But Labour said while it welcomed any new money, Mrs May had been part a government that implemented "savage cuts" to local authorities, closed hundreds of Sure Start Centres and devastated youth services.