More Cuts In West Sussex

6 October 2011 — 8 Comments

Last year West Sussex County Council ‘Youth Support & Development Service’ did a consultation before slashing £2 million pounds from their budget. They are now facing a second round of cuts and this time they have to save another £2 million. Similar things are happening around the country to other youth services. As a resident, stakeholder partner, and voluntary sector youth worker, I feel I need to comment on the impact this is having.

Last May I wrote about the changes proposed to shave the West Sussex Youth Service budget. It has taken until now for the council to fully implement the reduced service, and after a round of redundancies and everyone reinterviewing for their jobs the new sessions and programmes are only just getting up and running. Yet just as people are settling into their stretched roles (in many cases, workers are taking on more responsibility over a wider geographical area) there is a new consultation asking people to comment on more cuts next year.

The consultation is online here, and I would encourage any West Sussex resident to try and complete it. I say try, because it is actually a difficult survey to understand as it is steeped in jargon and the questions are worded so that you choose an answer that ‘best fits’ your opinion without a clear opportunity to expand upon it. My concern here is that your “tick box” answer may very well be used to justify something you were actually arguing against! I have already fed back my disappointment with the consultation, but my suspicion is that decisions have already been made and the consultation is there to justify them. Or maybe I’m too cynical…

The impact of the first £2m cuts has meant that the statutory youth services have significantly reduced (or stopped) with many sessions now only open to those young people referred to them. Wheras it used to be a universal service open to all young people, YSDS is now mainly aimed at supporting young people to stay in education, employment or training and preventing offending and reducing re-offending by young people. That’s a huge structural change and the hope is that generic ‘open-access’ youth work can be pushed out to the voluntary sector. On paper, the YSDS solution is to support voluntary groups and clubs to run their own activities fulfilling the Big Society Agenda.  But as yet there is no clear support or strategy from county to do so, leaving many clubs high and dry where they have traditionally had support or staff from the Council that has now been pulled.

I do appreciate that it must be very difficult to reduce such a huge amount off an already tight budget and the implications for the remaining staff must be significant and disheartening. However as partners with the youth service and stakeholders in running youth provision locally, the lack of communication all the way through this process has been very frustrating. I don’t blame any individuals here as I have a huge amount of respect for the workers and managers bravely making these changes happen. I do blame the strategy and process for rolling it out though. I’ll give a small example of how it’s impacted locally:

I’m on the Management Committee of an independent youth club which the youth service have been running sessions out of for years. In the past few months, youth service managers have seen fit to change both the regular staff at the club (one has been there over 10 years) and the night the club opens (Friday to Wednesday) without any involvement of the young people who attend or even any communication with the committee who run the centre. In addition, again without any consultation, the cost of the session has now been put up to £1 – a 50 per cent price hike in an area that already has one of the lowest incomes in the county.

The way the changes have been conducted and the lack of communication about it all has really riled people. Last week, our local paper ran an article about the latest cuts to the service and how the unions are urging residents to condemn it:

“This first round of cuts has been appalling for the service and our young people. But now the council is coming back for more. A further £2m will be cut from the service over the next three years – unless the public speak out to defend their service and tell councillors ‘no more’,” said Daniel Sartin, deputy branch secretary of UNISON West Sussex…

“Any further cuts could have significant impact right across our communities and services. For the sake of balancing the books now, West Sussex may well pay the price for such short-sighted actions for decades to come.”

The unions warned that community groups, already hit by funding cuts themselves, would be unable to take over parts of the youth service as the county council hoped.

Mr Sartin added: “Councillors should not kid the public. You cannot take £4m out of a professional service and expect churches and the voluntary sector to pick up the pieces. We’ve seen no evidence that the Big Society agenda is making any difference to West Sussex’s communities in the face of these damaging cuts.”

 So what about you? Are you affected by budget cuts to youth services in your area? Do you have different opinion on it? Share in the comments! 

Jon

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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

8 responses to More Cuts In West Sussex

  1. I’ve just received the following comment from someone involved in West Sussex Youth Support & Development Service who would like to remain anonymous:

    “The workers and the managers within the youth service are as frustrated with the process and what has happened as much as those who see it from the outisde. Everywhere morale has declined and those who have not already left are looking for different roles or trying their best to salvage the sinking ship.

    Of those who took voluntary redundancy many are working for district councils with young people in similar roles or forming consortiums to take over the deliver of services abandoned by this process. At the same time, much of the goodwill and respect built up by West Sussex Youth Services over the past decade has been squandered as managers struggle to cope with the changing demands of a new structure and relocating staff from a resource pool that cannot meet all the demands placed on it.

    The question is what next? Should we fight to stop any more cuts? It would be nice to think that if we stopped the reduction of the service by another £2million then it could lick its wounds and return to deliver a provision for young people that is similar to what was the common experience in the past. Unfortunately that would be wish-fulfillment of the naive and hopeful. There is no easy return to what used to be.

    Do we put the Youth Service out of its agony and look for a different manner of delivery? With many rural communities already struggling with the realities of having to provide a service they know they need and no available support perhaps the Select Committee should continue reshaping the service to focus on its narrow agenda of targeted and integrated support for those at most need. Move away from any attempt at providing generic clubs even in deprived areas but decide what the core business is and do that well.

    The money that is withdrawn from the former youth service would be better placed in developing better support for all the voluntary sector initiatives that are in the formative stages, and helping them to do it better. Perhaps the targeted youth workers could train volunteers to an NVQ standard, or guide management committees in their duties and completing funding applications, or even inspect voluntary settings and be a critical friend to volunteer teams around the county?

    The damage has been done to West Sussex Youth Service and without major reinvestment this will not be undone by stopping any future cuts. Better perhaps to continue the process and ensure that those who step into the breach are equipped with the tools to work with young people.”

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Jon Jolly (@bobweasel) (@bobweasel) - 6 October 2011

    More Cuts In West Sussex http://t.co/gXUIb4oq

  2. Big Society and church toddler groups - Media Mum - Children & Young People Now blogs - 6 October 2011

    […] clearly still alive and kicking, in his head at least.Today I also read youth worker Jon Jolly on how the Big Society agenda is playing out in West Sussex , with council cuts leading not only to a shrinking statutory youth service but a lack of support […]

  3. Jon Jolly (@bobweasel) (@bobweasel) - 6 October 2011

    More cuts to the youth service in West Sussex. Here’s my thoughts: http://t.co/V4zxH3q2 Are there big youth work cuts in your area? #ywchat

  4. Paul Perkins (@perk_i) - 8 October 2011

    More Cuts In West Sussex | JonJolly.com http://t.co/u5EX9bNZ via @bobweasel

  5. Cuts in Youth Services « Youth Blog from the UK - 12 October 2011

    […] have just read Jon Jollys post about the ongoing cuts to the services here in West […]

  6. Open Letter to West Sussex | JonJolly.com - 3 November 2011

    […] subscribe to the RSS feed for my regular updates on youth work related topics.In a follow up to my previous post regarding the latest round of cuts to the youth service in west sussex, I’m posting below a […]

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