TWO trade unions have joined forces to urge West Sussex residents to speak out against “damaging” cuts to the county’s youth services.
UNISON and the Community and Youth Workers’ Union (CYWU) are calling for a major response to the county council’s public consultation on the future of youth services.
The council has already slashed £2m from its spending on services ranging from community youth work to initiatives to prevent re-offending, and now proposes a further £2m in cuts over the next three years.
“This first round of cuts has been appalling for the service and our young people. But now the council is coming back for more. A further £2m will be cut from the service over the next three years – unless the public speak out to defend their service and tell councillors ‘no more’,” said Daniel Sartin, deputy branch secretary of UNISON West Sussex.
Jason O’Hagan, branch chairman of the West Sussex CYWU, said: “Adolescents are not adults, and they are not children. Medical studies show that brain function is different during adolescence – young people think and act differently to how we as adults might expect.
“What’s more, young people are entering the toughest period for decades, as job opportunities dry up and youth unemployment rises. Now more than ever, we need professional, trained staff within youth services to help our young people make the right choices and stay on the right path.
“Any further cuts could have significant impact right across our communities and services. For the sake of balancing the books now, West Sussex may well pay the price for such short-sighted actions for decades to come.”
The unions warned that community groups, already hit by funding cuts themselves, would be unable to take over parts of the youth service as the county council hoped.
Mr Sartin added: “Councillors should not kid the public. You cannot take £4m out of a professional service and expect churches and the voluntary sector to pick up the pieces. We’ve seen no evidence that the Big Society agenda is making any difference to West Sussex’s communities in the face of these damaging cuts.”
The consultation continues until October 14 and the questionnaire is available at: http://www.yourspacewestsussex.co.uk/your_voice/public_consultation/online_questionnaire.aspx
Peter Evans, county council cabinet member for children and families, said: “We need to consider new and imaginative ways to provide services. A number of youth activities have already been taken over by the voluntary sector and local community groups. We are keen to find out what more can be done to support this Big Society agenda.”