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'Make them take us seriously'

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

By Joe Porter – Endon resident and Youth Councillor for the Staffordshire Moorlands

Joe Porter

Joe Porter

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"OUR public finances are limited; our priorities are changing and our definition of public services is different to what it once was. To put it simply, the state is inevitably shrinking.

Local authorities are cutting their youth services to reduce their own deficits and to fund council tax freezes. Staffordshire County Council need to ask itself: Could these proposed £4.5 million of savings be made in other areas? Could these services be commissioned to the private sector? And is it moral to cut youth services?

The county council claims that only one in five young people use the youth services. But this doesn't take into consideration the 20,257 politicised Staffordshire young people who voted in last year's UKYP 'Make Your Mark' survey – the highest in the country. Investing money in the future generation will always be value for money, if done properly. It will, after all, be us who will make up the workforce of tomorrow. On a budget of less than a single Staffordshire high school, the youth service works with 16,000 young people – 10 times the student population of an average high school – and has less than 1/34th of the mainstream budget of Staffordshire secondary schools. So logically, engaging with 20 per cent of the county's young people is much more value for every public pound spent.

If the proposals go ahead, 400 jobs will be lost. Youth workers are fully trained in health and safety and are more knowledgeable than anyone, other than parents, about the needs of young people. While volunteers should be highly valued, they do not have the same level of training and experience. Surely, they shouldn't be expected to always take on the responsibility of young people's safety without even being paid? Also, volunteers don't have a contractual obligation to turn up and run every youth club session. The Staffordshire Youth Action Kouncil, the eight district youth forums, and the UK Youth Parliament reps all form 'Speakout'. This ensures that every young person who lives, works or learns in Staffordshire has a local, regional and national voice. If youth workers lose their jobs and the youth centres close, this essential aspect of the youth service will cease to exist. I urge the council to listen to the results of the public consultation. This is not just a matter of politics – it is a matter of morality and creating a more prosperous and aspirational future. Therefore, I ask every local councillor and Staffordshire MP to please reconsider the proposed cuts to the youth service. Otherwise, the 'Achieving Excellence for Young People' proposals won't achieve "excellence" for young people. Instead it's young people and hard working youth workers who will pay the cost. And politically, it would disconnect young people from politics and create an even larger gap between you and your younger constituents. Please sign the petition and participate in the consultation so that this becomes Staffordshire's largest ever petition and consultation, and so they take us seriously.

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