Youth service cuts

‘BRAZEN cheek’ is about the best description for the statement of county councillor Peter Evans concerning the future of youth services in West Sussex.

A sham consultation ended a short while back – Number 18 Project not even considered worth sending a copy.

Already subject to swingeing cuts a year back, now youth services are to be further butchered and another 50 youth workers lost.

And all to enable West Sussex to comply with the wishes of their central government masters, for policies no-one elected this government to implement.

This is the reality – services built over decades trashed in weeks in the name of doctrinaire politics.

Youth workers often have been the ‘first contact’, the local drop-in youth centre in the neighbourhood the place where many kids found someone without an agenda to whom they could talk.

Those youth leaders now decoupled from their centres, pooled like so many agency workers.

Sessions cut as funding is cut.

I’ve been with Number 18 since it started in 1996, and my conclusion is these cuts spell the death of a proper youth service in this county under the county council.

No doubt the youth chiefs will remain in post to ‘coordinate’ all that voluntary effort Cllr Evans so trustingly believes will rush forward.

He says he needs our support.

Well, county councillor, who do you think have been supporting the youth service up to now?

The voluntary management committees made up of just those sort of people, the volunteers who work night after night with the paid county workers., that’s who.

Do you think there’s an endless supply out there, just to pop along and take over those paid jobs and hours you’re cutting?

People are concentrating on finding work.

They need the youth service to be functioning so they know their kids are safe when they have to work shifts, have two jobs or work extended hours, for low pay.

We hear people like Cllr Evans prattling on as they do about the ‘Big Society’.

Big deal. What about ‘the little society’?

The priority for the youth service used to be young people, all of them.

Now the priority is Cameron/Clegg-speak.

Well, the new Phoenix Centre is not something your lot can claim, but the decline of youth service overall in West Sussex is something for which you are responsible.

Across England, councils this year look set to spend 93 per cent of what they did last year, and 91 per cent on adult leisure.

But on services for kids and young people – council playschemes 85 per cent, grants to voluntary play projects 64 per cent, youth services 76 per cent. Says it all.

Jan Cosgrove

Acting Chairman Number 18 Project, Bognor Regis