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Youth service reforms won’t save Sidmouth’s centre

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 June 2014

Devon County Council

Devon County Council

Archant

Devon’s youth service will be run from eight ‘central hubs’ if new money-
saving measures are pushed through – but vulnerable Sidmouth youngsters will have to trek to Exmouth to join a regular session.

Devon County Council (DCC) wants to cut almost £1million from the current level of service to help balance its books.

It had planned to close all of its 32 youth centres if they were not taken on by voluntary organisations, but reviewed the plans after more than 100 representations from users, parents and communities.

Now Exmouth’s The Hive – an hour away from Sidmouth by bus – looks set to be saved as one of eight youth hubs, although East Devon’s other centres still face the axe.

DCC is also proposing to retain 53 full-time equivalent staff to work both in a targeted role with the most vulnerable and running open-access sessions.

And £100,000 will be available for advice and infrastructure support, with a further £200,000 for one-off grants as the council looks to the community to take over the provision.

Sidmouth youth activist Alfie Weaver welcomed the rethink but said the proposals do not go far enough, adding: “The local hub in Exmouth still leaves the rest of East Devon without provision.

“The idea of young people from low-income families being able to make a journey at night on an expensive bus is unrealistic and shows the lack of understanding the council has towards these vital services.

“The young people who access centres across Devon can be challenging and [staff] require training to be able to defuse any hard situations and create a positive learning and engaging environment – something that DCC’s £300,000 will not cover.

“I still believe that the cuts are short-sighted and will cost the council a great deal in the not so distant future.”

Speaking at a DCC cabinet meeting to discuss the proposals on Wednesday, Councillor Emma Morse said: “Only time will tell whether this experiment that central government is inflicting on us will ruin a generation of children because we didn’t invest enough time and money in them.”

Devon’s cabinet member for young people, James McInnes, said: “Improving our targeted early intervention work with the most vulnerable young people has to be the top priority.

“But we also recognise the important role that open-access provision has for many communities as part of the broader network of local support for young people and we wish to help support and encourage this.

“I believe our solution offers the best opportunity to both target our limited resources on the most vulnerable whilst harnessing the capacity and expertise of a professional youth service.”

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