Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Key Youth Services vote ensures continued provision in areas that need it most

A special South Gloucestershire Council meeting this week listened to many young people speaking passionately about the services they need, then voted to safeguard youth centres in the Priority Neighbourhood areas and still make funds available across South Glos to help communities provide for young people, while a Tory effort to slash funding to young carers was defeated. The issue was originally discussed by the Council's Children and Young People Committee on 25th July, but Conservative councillors then referred it to a meeting of the full council.

Lib Dems proposed that one youth centre be provided as a council service in each of the council's six Priority Neighbourhoods, and also to provide £437,700 for youth services in other areas across the council.

Speaking to support the Lib Dem proposal, Cllr Pat Hockey said "Of course we have vulnerable people in all communities, so we must keep all the youth centres open - hopefully the councillors here go back to parishes and communities and say "come on, get up, let's keep these clubs open"

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Ian Blair said: "Under the Conservative proposals, no youth centre in South Gloucestershire would have been guaranteed to continue. We've safeguarded centres in the most deprived areas, and have made funds available to communities across the district to decide what works for their communities, what their young people want."

After the Liberal Democrat motion had been passed by Council, the Conservatives tried to amend it further, to move £100,000 away from support for vulnerable young people including young carers, and towards Conservative wards. Cllr Ruth Davis, leader of the Lib Dem group was appalled. "This is playing politics with young people's expectations, and the council's very limited resources"

The Tories tried to pass the £99,000 costs of the Armadillo Youth Cafe to the Frome Vale area from 2014/5, which would probably have used up all council funding for the area, but this was defeated. Eventually Liberal Democrats and Labour agreed that each priority neighbourhood should have 2 sessions a week  of South Glos youth work in a youth centre.

A further £210,000 of "targeted youth provision" money was added to the amount already agreed at the CYP meeting.  This was to shore up the areas that had no deprivation weighting, such as rural areas and Thornbury. This money will allocated based on population of young people.

A further Tory proposal suggested moving another £100,000 from targeted provision (e.g. young carers, drugs and alcohol, youth offenders services) to subsidise general provision, but this was defeated because it would have put the vital target provision at risk.

The final outcome is a balance between support for Priority Neighbourhoods (e.g. Abbotswood and Cranleigh Court in our area) and targeted services. Some Council Youth Service provision has been maintained, strategically sited across the authority, and the Area Forums have been given some money with which to support youth services in their area.

The next step is to decide the best way to deliver a Youth Service to the priority neighbourhoods and importantly from where they will be delivered. To have a service that is the same as at present ALL youth centres are going to have to find some alternative source of income.

If an external organisation takes on a centre it will have to be self sufficient in everything including management, performance management etc. These management aspects will no longer be provided by the Council. Some tough decisions have been taken in the light of the restricted finance available, but hopefully and with community support the new financial structure will provide a basis for youth work to continue where it is most needed and in a way that meeds community needs.

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