Wiltshire Council has approved a change to its youth services which will see youth workers made redundant and decision-making delegated to a community level.
The council’s cabinet met at County Hall tonight, where it unanimously passed the plan, which would save £250,000 from the annual youth services budget.
The new system was put together following a 10-week consultation, which generated over 2,000 responses from young people across the county.
It will see the county’s 18 Area Board assume responsibility for coordinating and commissioning youth services, with funding allocated directly to the boards, and young people themselves invited to help decide on local priorities.
Laura Mayes, cabinet member for youth services set out the council’s plans to a chamber packed with young people, who spent over an hour debating the issue.
She said: “This whole review has caused a whole amount of anxiety, but unless we change our youth services in some way my biggest fear us we will have no youth services left in the future.
“It’s clear young people want support from a trusted member of staff and they also want a greater voice and more influence – these plans give them this.
“Young people have also told us they want a service that meets their individual community’s needs, recognising their area’s unique identity, and these proposals ensure they have this by devolving power and funding to area boards.”
Jonathon Seed, cabinet member for Area Boards, said: “We do know that we are not reaching the majority of our youth with our current services, and we have to try and widen what we are doing and increase opportunities across the board.”
The council currently employs 144 youth workers, many of who work part-time. The new model will see the equivalent of 23 full-time youth worker posts made redundant, with a new ‘community youth officer’ assigned to each of the 18 community area in the county, a move which attracted criticism from many of the young people who put questions to the cabinet.
Leah Lock, 19, who regularly attends the Canberra Youth Centre in Melksham, said: “They haven’t listened to us at all. Without the youth workers Melksham is nothing.
“The youth workers are the main reason everyone goes to Canberra, because everyone gets along with them.”
An alternative model which would prevent the need for redundancies had been proposed by the council’s Children’s Select Committee.
Its chairman, Councillor Jon Hubbard said: “I really struggle to understand how stripping the county of 130 trained youth workers will enhance safeguarding.
“Stripping the county of 130 trained and experienced youth workers will simply result in far more cracks appearing that young people could fall through.”