Council rubber-stamps £400,000 of youth service cuts

By Neil Puffett

| 07 June 2017

A council has given the green light to plans to cut £400,000 from its youth service budget by axing community youth work projects.

Surrey County Council has said it intends to scrap grants for youth organisations to deliver community projects. Picture: Surrey County Council

Surrey County Council currently spends £448,000 a year on "neighbourhood local prevention" projects - commissioning five youth organisations to deliver community youth work, mobile bus projects, and targeted group programmes across the county.

But the council has said it intends to decommission the grants, with funding set to cease on 31 August. The move will save the council £250,000 during 2017/18, rising to a cumulative total of £450,000 in 2018/19.

A report on the proposals states that the council set aside £8.1m for externally commissioned early help youth services in September 2014 to cover the five-year period from 2015 to 2020.

"Since implementation in September 2015, these services have worked in a targeted and preventative way to realise improved outcomes for many vulnerable young people in Surrey," the report states.

"In particular they have helped Surrey to continue to have some of the lowest rates of youth offending and young people who are not in education, employment or training in the country.

"However, the council now needs to transform its early help offer for children, young people and families, so that services are even more integrated, targeted and efficient, with the aim of an even greater impact on outcomes for the whole family."

The council has said it will bring to an end funding for neighbourhood local prevention grants at the end of the second year of the three-year programme on 31 August.

An impact assessment put together by the council states that during 2015/16, a total of 31,612 hours of activities were delivered for young people across Surrey through services funded by the neighbourhood local prevention grants. Provision was accessed by 2,058 young people, with each young person attending for an average of 15.4 hours.

Of those attending, 15 per cent are currently or have previously been in contact with children's services, five per cent had been known to the youth justice system in the last 24 months, and 26 per cent currently have an education, health and care (EHC) plan or receive support for special educational needs.

The report states that potential negative impacts of the changes include there being fewer opportunities for young people to access early help.

"This may lead to experiencing greater disadvantage and/or negative outcomes which result in them needing to access more specialist services," the impact assessment states.

"Feedback from stakeholders has indicated that there is likely to be a negative impact on other residents and local communities due to increased antisocial behaviour resulting from less positive activities for young people.

"Young people who live in more rural areas or have a lack of public transport will miss out on activities the most."

The report also reveals that young disabled people and those with special educational needs will lose opportunities for group activities.

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