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Decision is due on youth service

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: March 19, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

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A DECISION on the future of youth services is to be made by Staffordshire County Council today in the wake of a petition signed by 16,000 people.

The council is proposing that all paid youth workers are made redundant and replaced with volunteers.

This has led to fears that many youth clubs, including sites in Leek and Cheadle, could be forced to close.

A decision on the future of youth services is due to be made today (Wednesday). It comes after a meeting of the county council last week when leaders were urged to reconsider the cuts after more than 16,000 people signed a petition against them.

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A report to the cabinet by Robbie Marshall, who has the responsibility for health and wellbeing, said: "The majority of young people never use a county council funded youth facility or take part in an activity we pay for.

"That must change, and we are determined to lead the change to a brighter future for our young people. One size does not fit all, so we'll be developing plans for each district on local needs and aspirations.

"While it is understandable to feel some concern about change, we believe our proposals, with the amendments made following consultation, to offer targeted support and increase the community offer, is the best way to meet the individual needs of young people."

Leek South county councillor, Charlotte Atkins, told the Post & Times this week that if the go-ahead was given it would destroy not just professionally led youth centres, but a youth service praised by Ofsted and responsible for developing the self-esteem and confidence of local youngsters.

She said: "Without the youth service, young people will lose their strong democratic voice and as a result we will all be the poorer because they are our future community leaders. I urge the cabinet to think again and discuss with the youth service ways to improve what it has to offer."

Trudie McGuinness, Labour's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Staffordshire Moorlands said the campaign to save youth services has brought together people from all backgrounds and all ages.

She said: "The verdict of the people is clear – we hugely value the work that our youth workers do and we want to keep them in place to engage, support and guide our young people.

"I sincerely hope that when the council's cabinet meets to consider their proposals they humbly accept the overwhelming majority view that we need our youth services and that they step back from the brink of decimating them."

Joe Porter, youth councillor for the Staffordshire Moorlands, added: "The turnout in the public gallery for the full council debate, and the fact that some people were in tears about the potential impacts of cutting the youth service, just shows the seriousness of this issue to many people.

"A lot of the council's cabinet are failing to understand the concept of youth work being a 'profession', and yet the outstanding work that they do with us all should surely be enough to prove that it is an extremely valuable profession that is worth every pound spent on it.

"I just hope that the result of our hard work will be the scale of the cutbacks being at least halved like in other areas where there has been strong opposition to youth service cuts."

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