Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

‘More Time’ Option For Youth Service Changes Unveiled

A new option has emerged that could see reductions in the Youth Services budget in West Sussex phased over a longer period than originally proposed to allow more time for the voluntary and community sector to come forward and take over some services.

A timetable that would see a £2 million budget reduction being spread over four instead of three financial years will be discussed at a meeting on Friday, November 4 of the County Council’s Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee, which is to be webcast.

The scrutiny committee will be looking in detail at proposals that will complete re-designing the service to one where its resources are targeted at the most vulnerable young people such as those at risk of offending or re-offending, and those not in any form of education, employment or training (NEETs).

The committee is being asked to look at the proposals and pass its comments to Peter Evans, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, who will take a final decision later this month.

Members will also look at the results of a recent consultation into youth services provision, which attracted 1,311 responses, 44 per-cent of them from young people aged 19 or under.

The report to the committee shows how the £2 million saving is currently due to be made by the 2013/14 financial year.

But it says that Peter Evans and the County Council’s Cabinet has also asked for a new option that will extend the phasing to 2014/15 ‘to allow time to develop voluntary community sector capacity and capabilities to take on services.’

The report adds: “The Cabinet Member remains committed to achieving the proposed £2m savings and any proposed phasing of the budget reductions should still achieve this overall reduction.”

Peter said today: “This is not about a change of direction because we have to live within our means, and we cannot afford to continue with the current level of service. I must make that clear.

“That means we must use our resources where they will have the most impact and that will be based around targeted services focussed on those young people whose lives are in crisis and turmoil.

“Our review of the service has already saved £2 million and there are some excellent examples of local communities and voluntary groups coming forward to get more involved with youth projects.

“For example, 20 village based youth clubs have now been transferred solely to voluntary and community sector provision, and we have developed training and information booklets for organisations interested in taking over youth work.

“There has also been positive interest in the County Council’s Community Asset Transfer (CAT) policy which, subject to an acceptable business case, allows a community group to take over a council owned property. Several business plans are currently being developed.

“However, our experience has shown that all this does take time to put in place. Phasing in the budget reductions over a longer period will maximise those opportunities as we work with organisations that want to play a role in maintaining youth services in their area.”

Richard Burrett, Chairman of the Select Committee, said: “The meeting will be an opportunity to discuss in detail the proposals to complete the change to a service with its priorities based around targeted and specialist services.

“We will also be looking at the option the Cabinet Member has now asked us to consider of phasing in the savings over a longer period, and considering this as part of our comments to him before he completes the decision making process.”

The meeting starts at 10.30am on Friday and can be viewed by following the links to the webcast pages from www.westsussex.gov.uk