DCC opens public consultation on ‘fundamental remodelling’ of youth service delivery

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THE future of North Devon’s youth centres looks uncertain as Devon County Council looks to slash £110million from its spending by 2017.

114 jobs could be at risk as the council launches a public consultation on fundamentally remodelling the current ‘universal’ youth service to create a more targeted approached aimed at early help and prevention – meaning North Devon’s nine youth centres would no longer be managed by the county council.

The youth service currently costs £3.7million a year and employs 114 full-time-equivalent staff.

Youngsters from ‘Georgies’ youth centre in Barnstaple had already announced that they would be holding a gig on February 19 to protest prospective cuts, while Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox hailed Bideford Youth Centre as an ‘essential service’ when he visited in October.

Community and voluntary groups or others with an interest are invited to suggest alternative models or express an interest in taking over any of the council’s 34 youth centres as part of the 12 week consultation, which started on February 3.

The county council has to cut its services spending by £110million by 2017 and has consistently warned that all services would come under the spotlight.

It is not required by law to provide a youth service, though DCC has said it is ‘keen to find alternative delivery partners to secure a sustainable future’.

Devon’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the youth service, Will Mumford, said: “These proposals envisage a significant shift from open access, universal facilities to targeted support for those most in need.

“We will be particularly keen to work with local communities during the consultation to develop a new ‘offer’ for young people for which the county council might be able to provide some initial support.

“We would also be happy to discuss with our staff the possibility of forming a staff mutual or social enterprise to take on local youth provision.

“Of the 90,000 young people aged 13-19 across the county around 10,000 young people a year use the current youth service. But it is clear that it is just one element of a tapestry of excellent clubs and services around the county that are already provided by numerous community and voluntary groups. We want to harness that capacity and expertise to help develop a sustainable model for the future.”

The overall budget for social care for children and adults will be cut by £4million to £315million in 2014/15, though there will be an increase in spending on services for the most vulnerable, such as children at risk and rising demand from a growing elderly population.

Draft proposals would see the current youth service budget reduced by £740,000 in 2014/15 and by £927,000 in 2015/16.

The public consultation closes on April 27.

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