Volunteers to take over in youth service overhaul?
PUBLISHED: 16:22 14 October 2011 | UPDATED: 18:23 18 October 2011
VOLUNTEERS and charities could soon be taking over youth services across the district as North Somerset Council desperately tries to save money.
Councillor Jeremy Blatchford, the authority’s executive member for children and young people’s services, said for the youth service to stay as it is, the district would have to lose Parish Wharf, Hutton Moor and Scotch Horn leisure centres.
As part of its cost saving measures, the council needs to cut the amount of money it spends on youth services from £1.1million to £282,763 by 2013.
This means a drastic overhaul of the current services and the council is now discussing ways to chop the budget by almost 75 per cent.
Councillor Blatchford said: “We are trying to offer an affordable range of services - some provided by volunteers, others may be paid for by other organisations.
“This will give young people more choice as 97 per cent of youngsters do not currently use the youth service.
“Youth clubs do not open at weekends and they only open in term time, so a youth centre is closed more than it’s open.
“For 18 weeks of the year they don’t open, the buildings might as well not exist, so let’s use them for something.”
Cllr Blatchford has confirmed that closing youth centres in North Somerset is not in the council’s medium term plan, but the authority is looking at maximising the use of the buildings by allowing other groups to use them such as children’s centres and location teams.
He did, however, suggest some youth workers could lose their jobs over the next couple of years.
He said: “We are looking to set up two elements within the youth service. The first will be a programme of general activities for young people to build up their confidence and have fun.
“The second will be a targeted service, overseen by professionals, working specifically with vulnerable teenagers.
“The youth buildings will act as a base and the service there will vary from community to community.”
The council is also hoping to promote the existing groups which are run in North Somerset, such as scouts and cadets, and use new technology to inform youngsters what activities are taking place in their area at weekends.
Mr Blatchford added: “The whole service is being rearranged and I think we will get a far better service at the end of it. North Somerset won’t be paying as much and parishes and charities will end up paying more. We will also have a lot of volunteers.
“It’s taking two to three years to do it and things will start happening from next April.”
The plans are currently in a discussion document. Town and parish councils are currently being consulted and youngsters will also be asked their opinions later in the year before a proposal is taken to full council.