Changes to youth-service focus as management costs to be cut

Northumberland's new-look youth service will be '˜sustainable and fit for the future' despite funding cuts, councillors were told.
Coun Deirdre Campbell, who represents the Newsham ward in Blyth.Coun Deirdre Campbell, who represents the Newsham ward in Blyth.
Coun Deirdre Campbell, who represents the Newsham ward in Blyth.

Following a review, which saw all those involved ‘broadly in support of the proposal’, the plan is to remodel it back to one countywide service rather than three based on geographical area.

However, the number of hours of front-line service delivery in Northumberland ‘will remain in line with what is currently delivered’, with the changes having ‘an impact on management arrangements and focus of work delivered’.

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Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, told the family and children’s services committee last week that it will ‘focus like a laser beam on areas where people perceive young people are a problem’.

“Unlike most local authorities in the North East, we are retaining a youth service which I’m very proud of,” he said.

“This is a targeted approach and it’s important to note that there’s no front-line redundancy, it’s management where people are not being replaced.”

A report to councillors explained that the changes mean that greater resources would go to areas of high need and larger populations centres such as Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth.

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However, this would mean a change or reduction in council-funded provision in Alnwick, Morpeth, Ponteland, Prudhoe, Hexham and Haltwhistle.

In these towns, the aim is that local voluntary groups which already exist and work with young people will offer alternative provision, with support from the county council, as part of a wider goal of communities running their own sustainable services based on their specific needs.

Plus, the meeting heard that there would be an opportunity for the county council’s resources to be mobilised to other areas if there are specific issues to tackle or which are causing concern.

Coun Deirdre Campbell, who represents the Newsham ward, said: “It’s so obvious that there are issues around Ashington, Bedlington and Blyth, and it’s been that way for years. It’s linked to poverty and I wonder if it also links to the rise in school exclusions (which the committee has looked at recently).

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“I’m glad Blyth is getting help because we had serious problems over the summer with youth vandalism. It was absolutely shocking. I feel there must be something very sad going on in their lives if they go out and commit such wilful destruction.”

The changes will result in significant savings with ‘an overall 73 per cent reduction in the management team costs and a 19 per cent reduction in the participation service costs without reducing the number of staff delivering work with young people’.

As part of the review, it has also been decided that it will no longer deliver the National Citizen Service after the current programme ends in April, due to it being ‘very resource-intensive’, the funding from the Government not covering the costs and concerns that it wasn’t helping the young people that would most benefit.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service