Plea for honesty over youth service cuts

YOUTH workers across North Somerset are calling for honesty and openness from North Somerset councillors who they believe have not been clear about plans to axe the majority of youth worker posts in the region.

Budget cuts being implemented by the authority will include reducing the youth service budget by 72 per cent by 2013/14. The proposals include the removal of youth workers posts, which will leave most, if not all of the youth clubs in the area without qualified staff to run them.

Alan Rowe a full time youth worker based at Portishead Youth Centre said: “North Somerset Council proposals show no provision for general youth workers as we know them for the future.

“I am shocked that so many posts are being axed and that members of the community I come into contact with seem to be completely oblivious to this.”

Portishead Youth Centre has recently undergone a �1 million redevelopment. As part of the planning for that, a survey carried out among young people at Gordano School showed 24 per cent of young people regularly used Portishead Youth Club.

This is compared to the figure quoted Councillor Jeremy Blatchford in an interview with the Times last week in which he claimed 97 per cent of young people in North Somerset do not use the youth service.

Youth worker Sally King who works at both Pill and Portishead youth clubs said: “It’s only fair that it is spelt out to the club users and their families how these decisions will affect them.”

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There are currently the equivalent of 16.4 full time youth workers in North Somerset, which will be reduced to zero under a proposed new staffing structure which could be introduced as soon as April, 2012.

Youth workers and youth support workers will disappear from the budget completely. In addition, the equivalent to 31 full time sessional youth worker posts will be reduced to just one.

Senior youth worker positions in North Somerset will be reduced from the equivalent of 7.15 full time staff members to 6.5 but all these will be directed to carry out targeted youth support, concentrating on vulnerable young people and not young people in general.

Portishead volunteer youth worker Charlie Lane is leading a campaign to save the youth workers’ jobs.

The 18-year-old said: “Experienced youth workers were my rock as I was growing up and I relied heavily on their support, who knows what would have become of me had they not been there for me.”

Charlie and other supporters of Portishead Youth Club plan to hold a protest outside the offices where the Executive Members of North Somerset Council meet to make their recommendations on the issue next week.

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