Greens call for transparency as Council announces fresh wave of youth service cuts

The Green group have condemned the Labour Council for continuing to make cuts to the city’s youth service despite a city-wide campaign to save it that saw the budget for the work largely restored in February.

Councillor Alex Phillips, spokesperson for Children, Young People and Skills has called for greater transparency as information about recent cuts to the service appeared as a small note on the internal council information network, ‘the Wave.’ [1] You can read the notice below.

Councillor Phillips has made a statement, commenting:

“At the last full council meeting in July I directly challenged the local Labour group about the current state of youth services and was told that the youth service information bus would be retained for a further year. Now we learn – from a notice quietly ushered out on an internal council network – that the entire dedicated detached youth work team is to be lost.

“The young people who campaigned to save the youth service repeatedly made clear that access to support where they lived made a huge difference. A few in-house services in the city centre mean little to young people unable to shore up the bus fare in and out of town. Detached youth work and services like the youth mobile information bus meant that help and support came to them, where they live, with advice and activities.

“After the Labour Council attempted to axe all council youth work last February, Greens launched a series of successful budget proposals that together with amendments from the Conservatives saw the youth service funding almost entirely reinstated. The disgraceful reality is that despite this, key elements of youth work are still being axed behind the scenes. Getting rid of detached youth work flies in the face of everything we and these young people campaigned to protect.”

1] The information published on Brighton and Hove City Council intranet, ‘The Wave’:

Youth service changes

From 1 August our Youth Service is changing. 

We will no longer have an in-house detached team working from the youth bus. You will still see the bus from time to time but there will no longer be a dedicated team.

Over the years the city has been lucky enough to have a bus which has had a positive impact on thousands of young people since 2003. The team want to thank everyone for their support in helping with the delivery of the bus.

The council will still fund a Participation & Advocacy team and Youth Arts and Duke of Edinburgh programmes will continue to be delivered but now externally funded.

 

2] Question from Councillor Alex Phillips, to the Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee Councillor Daniel Chapman at the meeting of full council, 20th July, Hove Town Hall
Question from Councillor Phillips – Youth Services

“Could the Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills please clarify how the plans to move Brighton & Hove City Council youth service staff into the Integrated Team for Parents and Families is in the spirit of the amendments made at budget council which aims to protect not only our youth service i.e children and families work but also the provision of detached youth workers?”

Response from Councillor Chapman, Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee

“As you know we are going through a restructure of the in-house services to provide services in the greatest area of need and to continue to work in partnership with voluntary sector and I’m happy to discuss with Councillor Phillips as well on another occasion in more depth about what’s going on with the youth service.”

Supplementary Question

“I’ll take that to mean they’ll be no more Brighton & Hove City Council youth service that technically the council will stop prioritising open access in house youth service and I think it is awful that that may well stop.

“The youth service bus came up as a much-loved resource through the consultation. Can the Chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee please confirm that this bus, which amongst other things provides sexual health and education outreach to young people, will remain as is?”

Response

“The bus will be retained for a further year and resources will be available for the wider youth teams and the voluntary sector.”

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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.