24/09/2018 17:19 BST

Union Worker Who 'Stopped Girl Walking Into The Sea' Makes Plea For Better Youth Services

"The feeling of not being able to cope is a national and growing trend."

A union worker has shared the “harrowing” story of how she helped to save the life of a girl trying to drown herself in a plea to politicians to improve youth services.

Unite the Union’s Jessie Jacobs gave an impassioned speech at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool on Monday about how she found a young woman “distressed, crying and walking into the sea” while out on a run last week.

“I used to be a youth worker, so I did what good youth workers do – I stopped, I listened, I cared, I offered advice and hopefully I made a difference,” Jacobs told delegates.

“But it concerned me. Because who would she have talked to except a stranger on the beach?,” she continued. “Suicide rates among young women are at their highest in recorded history. In 10 years, the rates have nearly doubled.”

ONS figures released at the end of 2017 revealed that while overall suicide rates were at a 20-year low, the number of women aged 20-24 who died by suicide in 2016 (118) was 76% higher than in 2006 (67).

“The feeling of not being able to cope experienced by that young woman is a national and a growing trend,” Jacobs said, slamming budget cuts that have “decimated” youth services.  

Quoting Local Government Association figures, she added: “By 2020, authorities will receive £15.7bn less than they were in 2010.

“And who is this hurting? It’s hurting those girls on the beach... These women are our future leaders, mothers, engineers, teachers, surgeons, maybe Labour leaders.

“They need support, care and guidance to be all that they can be. We need to be opening more youth services, not closing them, recruiting youth workers, not making them redundant, providing a careers service, not taking it away.”

Labour research published in April found that spending on children and young people’s services had been slashed by £960m in real terms since 2012, leaving thousands of families without support.

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