YOUTH workers across the county face redundancy after Staffordshire County Council’s ruling cabinet voted to make cuts and changes to the way youth service are funded despite a 16,000 signature petition being presented against the proposals.
The council proposals agreed this morning (Wednesday) include making all paid youth workers redundant and replacing them with volunteers.
This has lead to fears that many youth clubs, including sites in Leek and Cheadle, could be forced to close.
Leek South county councillor Charlotte Atkins said today’s decision was “unbelievable”.
She said: “At a scrutiny meeting this week the councillors could not answer questions put to them. This now puts the whole service at risk. It is a very big mistake.”
Moorlands MP Karen Bradley said: “I am studying the proposals and will work with the county council to ensure that they use the money being spent on youth services wisely.”
The county council said the authority plans to move away from running traditional youth clubs, which are used by only a quarter of young people, to focus more on community-based activities to meet the goals and aspirations of young people in the county.
Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet support member for public health and community safety, said it was clear that the vast majority of young people no longer wanted to attend a traditional council run youth club.
He said: “Three quarters of young people have effectively already told us that traditional council-run youth clubs no longer meet their needs by not attending and at a time where we need to make those most of the resources is available, it is difficult to justify spending millions on clubs that are not fully used or wanted by the vast majority of young people.
“The time is right to change to focus much more on what young people do want and less on what they don’t want and don’t use.
“They have told us that doing well and finding a good job are there priorities and as a county we to invest more in activities which involve young people as active members of their of community and tailor support to help them achieve their goals to lead successful, rewarding and fulfilled lives.”
The county council will now look at the “youth picture” on a district-by-district basis, but also wants to focus more on meeting the needs of the more vulnerable young people in Staffordshire. There are no immediate plans to close any youth clubs.
The council said it will continue to support directly the Duke of Edinburgh, Bremen Exchange, V-Talent Contract and National Citizenship Schemes, which all help to increase young people’s employability, and social and life skills.
Mr Sutton added: “Council run youth clubs have served well in the past, but there are so many clubs, groups and activities available today that the vast majority of young people simply no longer want to attend a traditional youth club.
“This fresh approach is about improving services in the community and increasing access to schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh which really support young people’s aspirations around education and jobs.”
The council said the cost of running the clubs is around £5.9m a year. Around a further £2.75m is invested in careers education for young people through the Information, Advice and Guidance strategy.