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Slashing of Wiltshire youth services confirmed.

May 15, 2014 6:08 PM

vjWiltshire Council's proposal to spend a lot less money on youth services in the county generated a strong reaction from young people themselves and from opposition councillors. The decision drastically to reduce provision for young people was made at a special cabinet meeting this afternoon at 4pm at County Hall. About a hundred young people turned up to oppose the scheme, with many speaking to emphase how much they value the current service and the front-line youth workers who operate it.

Despite the representations the cabinet resolved that the council's professional youth workers will be made redundant, to be replaced by an employee for each area board. Area boards will be given some funding to spend on youth activities.

A scrutiny task group set up to examine the cabinet's scheme had suggested a number of ways in which the financial cuts could be made less damaging.

The task group examined the basis for the cuts and found that much of the data produced by the council was fraudulent. For example a figure of 8% of young people using the service was produced - the truth is nearer 20% if all those making use of the service are included, not just those who go to formal youth clubs. The percentage was also skewed because measurements from the summer time were used instead of being averaged out over a whole year.

The original WC report also referred to cases where other councils were reducing youth work, thus giving the impression that wholesale reductions were taking place nationwide. In fact many councils are continuing to fund the service despite the cuts in government grants.

Previously the cabinet had offered four options as a basis for consultation, whilst dismissing three Youth Services Consultationof them and looking for a 'community based' approach as the preferred option. The task group agreed with this, but made a number of suggestions as to how the fourth option could be changed from a means of effectively destroying the youth service, to instead enhancing it and giving both the service and the professional staff within it a viable future.

The task group pointed out that youth workers currently give a lot of help and advice to vulnerable young people, and if this were withdrawn, the costs to society in the longer term might increase considerably. "The task group is deeply concerned that the preferred option risks saving money now to spend more later. Of greater concern is the significant negative impact on young people's lives if access to supportive relationships with youth workers is reduced," the report says.

Cabinet Agenda