Youth services that help more than 10,000 young people annually in Devon will become ‘a postcode lottery’, if the county council is allowed to slash the service’s budget, Unite, the country’s largest union, warned today (Monday, 3 February).
Unite pledged to mobilise opposition to the cuts, officially announced today, which come days after Wiltshire council launched a similar onslaught on youth services.
Unite warned that when Gloucestershire county council offloaded its youth centres three years ago – some still remain boarded up and one has become a swish antiques showroom.
Unite regional officer Mark Richards said: “We don’t want the highly regarded youth service in Devon to go the way of Gloucestershire’s. We want equality of provision throughout the county.
“What the Tory-controlled county council is planning will hit the welfare of thousands of Devon’s young people who rely on the youth service for support on employment, housing, and health and personal issues.
“We are facing a postcode lottery where Devon’s 34 youth centres could be taken over by private bidders, voluntary organisations – or even individuals.
“Our members provide targeted services, such as sex education and assistance with substance abuse problems, within a universal framework for young people – that could disappear.
“The council undertook a consultation last September with hundreds of young people and voluntary organisations – and not one said that they wanted the youth centres shut.”
Unite said that the service currently employed 230 youth staff – 114 full time equivalents (FTEs) – and within a couple of years this could be pared down to 20-30 FTEs.
The authority wants to save £740,000 in 2014/15 and £927,000 in 2015/16. Council bosses will now embark on a consultation process with staff and also at public meetings in March and April. The council’s cabinet will then make a final decision in the summer.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
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