Youth provision call-in fails

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Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 8:15am

By Alex Moore - Local Democracy Reporter

A CONTROVERSIAL change to the way youth services are provided in Shropshire will go ahead, despite an opposition leader’s request for it to be reconsidered.

Last month the cabinet agreed to provide six outreach workers, to meet cover the whole of the council area, and pass responsibility for funding local open-access youth groups to town and parish councils.

Roger Evans, who leads Shropshire Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group, issued a “call-in” request, claiming Wem Town Council had only had one one-to-one meeting about the plan and Ludlow Town Council is “unlikely” to manage financially and may have to lay off a youth worker.

But the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee voted not to uphold Cllr Evans’s request. Chairman Claire Wild welcomed an assurance from Children’s Services Director Karen Bradshaw that there would be no youth worker redundancies or club closures in 2020-21, but advised that an additional impact assessment be carried out.

Cllr Evans’s call-in request contained alternative proposals, including continuing the current £365,000-a-year Youth Support budget and continuing the current arrangement, whereby the Local Joint Committee organises and funds youth clubs.

“Where not already in place, a more local solution should be developed with and involving present and future local partners,” Cllr Evans’s request said.

“All partners involved in these discussions will be treated as equal participants and fully involved in developing the preferred local solution.”

He told the committee that outreach workers are “a good principle”, but added: “What we will demand is support for the youth clubs that are already formed.

“I understand certain town and parish councils have said that they can manage without the support from Shropshire Council, and I applaud that. It will release money to support the outreach workers.”

But he said the pace of the plan did not leave it sufficient time to “help the pockets of the county where there is no support, and the only safe environment for vulnerable young people is a youth club”.

Councillor Ed Potter, who holds the children’s services portfolio in the Conservative administration, said the new model would help reach vulnerable young people at risk of being lured into crime or exploitation.

He said: “Are we going to solve those problems with youth clubs? We are not.

“We are going to solve them by getting out there and engaging with them.

“The recommendation coming forward [in Cllr Evans’s call-in notice] is to maintain the status quo, and that would be to allow more young people to fall into that net of criminality.

“This is a sensible model. We need to have a model that can grow.”

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