Cash-starved youth-services

PUBLISHED: 16:34 17 August 2007 | UPDATED: 12:43 04 May 2010

East Cambridgeshire teenagers are being offered one of the most cash-starved youth services in the country. Youth workers are being forced to spend their time trying to raise money rather than working with the youngsters because funding is so poor. Ofste

East Cambridgeshire teenagers are being offered one of the most cash-starved youth services in the country.

Youth workers are being forced to spend their time trying to raise money rather than working with the youngsters because funding is so poor.

Ofsted reports on the service found that the county was spending 50 per cent less than the £4.5 million recommended by the Government.

But, despite inspectors' concerns, county council chiefs have cut the budget again for the coming year by £82,000 after deleting a Curriculum Manager's post. This reduced new funding allocated to implement the Ofsted action plan by 27 per cent.

The disturbing figures on spending for 13 to 19-year-olds were revealed in a report by a cross-party scrutiny committee to Cambridgeshire County Council's Cabinet.

Members discovered that Cambridgeshire was the lowest spending authority out of 133 recorded, allocating just over £40 for each teenager.

Staff morale is low because of unfilled staff vacancies and lack of funds "make it difficult even where there is a clear vision, for that vision to be taken forward," said the report.

Cllr. Anne Kent, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Children and Young People, said: "This is a damning report of the county council's failure to fund youth services properly.

"Youth workers are having to spend far too much of their time looking for funding rather than working with young people. This is not a sustainable way to run a youth service. We are too dependent on handouts from other organisations and charities."

Liberal Democrat Cllr John Batchelor, chairman of the county's children and young people's services scrutiny committee, which led the investigation, said: "The budget needs to be substantially increased by up to £500,000 year on year.

"There are pockets of real excellence in the service but there is not enough of it. In order to deliver the service local youth workers are having to raise the money. But they want to work with the children not carry out the administration. Priority must be given to higher funding."

The scrutiny committee has called for full staffing at professional levels, external funding to be fully explored and performance targets to be met. Members also want an update report in six months' time to see if their recommendations have been implemented.

Gordon Jeyes, Cambridgeshire County Council's director of Children's and Young People's Services and deputy chief executive, said: "We have been putting more money into the service it but it is still not enough. Last year there was an extra £250,000 and this year a further £42,000.

"Last year was a difficult year in children's services and it did result in savings."

But he added that there had been no reduction in services and promised there would be no reduction.

"We want to make the best use of our resources and our services are good and above the minimum standards," he said.

He added that youth workers are best placed to use their expertise to find additional resources and work with councils and local organisations to deliver the best services to the young.

"There has been positive encouragement in the youth service to make sure it is given its proper place and doesn't become a Cinderella," he said.

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