– By Tim Lezard Thousands of young people in Wiltshire seeking support on employment, housing or personal issues could lose a vital lifeline, if swingeing cuts are made to the county’s youth services. Unite has said it is appalled that one of the optio …
– By Tim Lezard
Thousands of young people in Wiltshire seeking support on employment, housing or personal issues could lose a vital lifeline, if swingeing cuts are made to the county’s youth services.
Unite has said it is appalled that one of the options being considered by councillors could see all 144 members of staff made redundant and all 24 the authority’s youth centres close.
The youth service worked with 3,500 young people in the six months (April-September) of 2013 and there were over 31,000 visits to youth clubs in the same period.
Unite said that the Tory-controlled Wiltshire Council wants to slash £500,000 from the integrated youth service budget for 2014/15 and will be unveiling four options to youth workers on Friday. There will be a consultation period from then until 22 April when the council’s cabinet meets to make its final decision.
Unite regional officer Alan Tomala said: “We face the real possibility that by the end of August we will have no youth workers, empty youth centres boarded up and young people hanging around outside them with nothing to do.
“As well as providing young people with a safe place to go to meet their friends and learn new skills, youth workers are providing lots of support to individual young people who have a range of challenges in their lives.”
Unite is highly critical that, while the council is arranging consultation with young people over the next 10 weeks, but there are no plans to hold public meetings in each community area.
Alan Tomala said: “The council knows these will be unpopular cuts, so it is trying to avoid difficult questions at public meetings. The county’s young people will suffer, if councillors are allowed to sneak these plans through.
“We would urge young people, their parents and the wider community to let their local councillors know that this is not acceptable and we should be investing in young people, not cutting their services.
“The council would prefer the community led model option which will see professionally qualified youth workers removed and replaced by a small grants budget in each area board across Wiltshire.
“Community groups can then apply to provide ‘positive activities’ for young people.”
Unite believes that there is no evidence that the community-led model will work. There is no plan B which will mean that, if local communities do not come forward and provide youth work opportunities in their area, then teenagers will be left with little, or nothing, to do.
The four options are: retain the youth work team with a significantly reduced budget; support the establishment of a staff mutual; outsource youth work – and the community-led model.
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