The false economy of cuts to our children and families

BY CLLR ALEX PHILLIPS

At next week’s meeting of the Policy and Resources committee, we will see the final budget proposals from the Labour council in Brighton and Hove, which look set to propose unprecedented cuts to services for children and young people. In years to come, we may look back and realise that this was when everything changed – when the city sent a clear signal to its youth that it could no longer invest in their future.

The cuts will see massive reductions in early years parent groups and targeted home visits, and an end to intensive courses for new parents struggling with their first child.  It will see the end of open-access youth work by Council teams and massive reductions in services in places like the Moulsecoomb 67 centre, which has served young people in our city for nearly 50 years.

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Children centres will see massive reductions in services

This is the inevitable product of an ideological and fundamentally flawed agenda of austerity, forced upon the country by an out-of-touch Conservative government.  They came into power to fix a “broken Britain”, but all they have achieved is soaring inequality and increasing queues at newly established food banks.  If Britain wasn’t broken when they started, it sure will be by the time they’re through.

The services for children & young people which are set to be cut are absolutely vital.  They help parents to make the right choices for their children and give them the skills, guidance and help they need from an early age.  Youth Services keep young people engaged and happy, ensure they stay on the right track, and allows us to intervene as needed to keep them away from self-harm, substance misuse and crime.

As some of you may know, I used to be a Secondary School French Teacher, as well as teaching German, PSHE and Citizenship and supporting pupils as a form tutor.  Being a teacher provides a remarkable insight into the lives of families and children from all backgrounds.  I have heard from countless parents how important early years support was in allowing them to cope and overcome depression.  I’ve also seen first-hand how children hit puberty and are bombarded with thoughts and feelings they can’t always process, and the right guidance and support is critical at that time.  Teachers face tremendous pressure and rely on youth services to provide this additional support.

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As a former secondary school teacher I understand the importance of early years and adolescent services

These cuts are short-sighted and make no sense. We will see more parents unable to cope, and more young people getting into crisis, self-harming and committing crime.  We’ll see more children being taken into care or needing costly services from the NHS or local authority. The immediate value of any cuts will be completely wiped out by the cost of crisis services.

These cuts reveal that the Labour Council, faced with a huge cut in income from central government, has no plan beyond uniform cuts across the board.  When the Greens weathered a similar storm in their own administration, they used every resource to keep frontline services going.  In contrast, the Labour leadership has thrown its hands up in the air.  In opposition, Greens can only watch if Labour unites with the local representatives of their Tory masters to force these cuts through.

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The Playbus is another vital service under threat

Back in May, Labour promised to offer the change that neighbourhoods and families need. Nationally, the Conservatives committed to giving children the best start in life.  Yet we see both pushing forward with massive cuts which will hit parents, children and young people when they most need our help. We should instead be investing in services as a preventative and cost-saving measure.

It’s not yet a done deal.  Greens will oppose these cuts and I urge the other parties not to abandon our children and young people, for the sake of our city.  Join us in standing up for a better future.

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