Will some Hertfordshire youth projects be axed in bid to save £1m?
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A NUMBER of young people’s centres could be closed and youth projects axed, as part of a review of services for young people designed to cut budgets by more than £1m.
‘Services for Young People’ (SfYP) currently provide a mix of youth work, careers education, information and advice, work-related learning and work experience.
But as part of an ongoing review, county council officials are looking to make £1m savings from the current £8m budget by March (2024).
The review was outlined to a meeting of the council’s children young people and families cabinet panel on Thursday (June 8).
And councillors were warned of potential reductions in after-school and evening youth work projects and holiday provision, as well as closures of some young peoples centres that may be ‘less well used’ or ‘of poorer quality’ .
However no decisions are expected to be taken before November – and they would follow a three-month period of public consultation.
Introducing the review at the meeting, executive director for children’s services Jo Fisher pointed to the ‘difficult financial challenges’ the council faced in setting its 2023/4 budget.
She highlighted £19m that had been earmarked for investment in children’s services – focussed on areas that include children in care and home to school transport.
But she said the service also had to make savings of £5m in this financial year – rising to £10.5m in 24/25.
In order to do that, she said the proposals to ‘redesign’ services for young people would reduce expenditure and ensure services were targeted at those young people who most need it.
At the meeting it was reported to councillors that the Service for Young People would work increasingly with schools to support the most vulnerable, at risk of being neither in education, employment or training.
And it would prioritise groups such as care leavers, young people known to a social worker, LGBT+ young people and those with SEND.
It would commission the charity Pro-Action to support the co-ordination, promotion and development of the voluntary youth work sector across the county.
And it would continue to provide services for schools and colleges to buy – including careers education, information, advice and guidance, the provision of work placements, employers for careers events, practice interview days and youth work.
But head of services for young people Peter Hosier warned that the number of youth workers, centres and youth projects could be cut.
Currently there are around 160 evening youth projects delivered by the service in a week.
But Mr Hosier said there would be ‘a risk to the number of local youth work projects that can be delivered across all districts and boroughs’,
And while the county currently owns or leases 22 young peoples centres, he said there would be a need to consider the financial viability of operating from the less well used and lower quality centres.
He said the service would look to retain as many nationally qualified youth workers and careers guidance advisors as possible.
But he acknowledged that previous reductions in management and support staff would mean that losses would include ‘practitioners’.
He also suggested there would be less capacity for the service to deliver targeted school holiday provision.
And he said that with an increasing focus on the most vulnerable young people, there would be less capacity to take referrals from parents, carers, young people or partner organisations.
The review was considered at the meeting as part of an item on the ‘early help redesign programme’.
But due to “technical issues” – which meant councillors accessing the meeting could not be heard in the chamber – it could not be fully debated.
And the item was adjourned for further consideration at a meeting on June 22.
However among those to speak was Labour Cllr Nigel Bell who said he was “very concerned”.
He raised concerns about the future of out reach youth workers and adviser services in in outer and rural areas of the county, as well as provision during the school holidays.
And following the meeting, Liberal Democrat Cllr Steve Jarvis said there was a need to be clear about the impact that the changes would have,
“For a long tome the council has been saying it is going to invest more in early intervention ad avoid more expensive interventions,” said Cllr Jarvis.
“But cutting services for young people seems to be moving in the opposite direction.”