Funding cuts to commissioned youth services at The Pavilion Youth & Community Café in Broadstairs will have a “life changing” impact on hundreds of young people and families, says manager Victoria Suchak.
The Pavilion hosts four youth sessions each week alongside family clubs, baby groups, mornings attended by grandparents and a range of events, trips and professional skills to help with mental health, sexual health, drug and alcohol abuse and work with children in care.
But Kent County Council proposals to withdraw funding for commissioned youth services by next March will see the loss of half The Pavilion’s income. The other half, provided by the Colyer-Fergusson Trust, ends in November.
KCC is currently consulting on plans for a ‘Family Hub’ model of delivering multiple services for youngsters aged 0-19 – or up to 25 for children with special education needs or disabilities. This includes providing outreach activities, reducing the number of permanent buildings and using digital technologies. The aim is to reduce costs and carbon footprint and help balance the council’s budget.
The programme means an overhaul of Children’s Centre services, Youth Services and Health Visiting, with KCC saying these will work alongside community-based midwifery care, bringing them together and making them easier to access.
But the changes include a proposal to stop funding youth clubs and activities currently commissioned by KCC but run by non-KCC organisations – and this includes Thanet’s Pie Factory Music which subcontracts to The Pavilion due to the original tender being district wide rather than individual schemes.
Victoria (pictured) said: “We get at least 20 children every day and have extended delivery from two to four sessions per week.
“The money from KCC, which has stayed the same over the seven years we have received it, pays for two of the sessions so it is vital.
“The money is really important to us as we employ professional youth workers but what they are saying is they expect it to be voluntary work.”
The Zone youth group was initially set up in 2006 and at that time it was volunteer-run in rented premises – first St Andrew’s church hall in Reading Street, then at The Gap in Queens Road.
The aim had always been for the club to have a home of its own and to be able to launch a youth and community café.
At the end of October 2017, The Pavilion Youth Club and Community Café was opened at St Peter’s Rec after extensive fundraising and renovation work.
Funding has come from KCC since shortly after the group was set up. Resources have been used to make sure there are professionally qualified people on hand to deal with complex issues that young people may be facing.
Victoria said: “We deal with young people with all sorts of issues and these have got worse over the past few years, especially during lockdown.
“Our staff deal with mental health, first aid, sexual health, drug and alcohol issues and lots of children in care. We work closely with children’s services.
“If funding is withdrawn we will not be able to employ people who deal with these issues or have the KCC training and huge support network they offer. The thought all that will be pulled from under our feet, I just don’t know what I will tell the kids. It’s life-changing.
“We will have until next March to find a huge amount of funding. KCC funds about half or provision and Colyer-Fergusson the other half but that ends in November so we have to find that too.
“We literally won’t have any money to run the youth club and that is the bottom line. Since we started our provision has quadrupled and we spend all of our income of about £100,000 per year.
“Last year the Reconnect programme was great and meant we could do lots of things but it had to be spent by August 31. We increased capacity and employed more staff.
“This year we are very much on a shoe string but still have the same number of people coming to us.
“Since setting up the Pavilion we have gone beyond youth and have young children, a baby group, family sessions, grandparents that come in in the mornings, we are very much a community provision.”
Victoria says youth provision is a statutory duty of the council but she understands all Thanet delivery will be focused on Quarterdeck in Margate with early years as a priority.
She added: “There will be nothing for school age children to go to, I don’t see how it will work.
“They are whipping away our foundation and everything we have built is being taken away from us.
“I understand finances are hard but we have to look at the long term, it is very short-sighted to think all those young people are suddenly going to be fine when we are seeing every day an increase in youth crime and drug and alcohol abuse.
“It’s going to be heart-breaking.”
District councillor Jenny Matterface said the impact will be felt across the community.
She said: “I first got involved with this project some years ago when Victoria Suchak was looking for a venue for her youth activities. The old cricket pavilion in St. Peter’s Recreation Ground was offered as a community asset, so after a long wait for the lease, Victoria and her team got access.
“Those of us there when the door was opened that first time went ‘Oh, my’ seeing the state it was in but Victoria never hesitated and after some major work carried out largely by volunteers on a minimal budget, it opened to the public in October 2017.
“If the project loses funding from KCC, it’s not just the young people who attend the after school clubs and holiday activities who will lose out but the mums and dads, grandparents and carers who attend the weekly Mini-Zone where friendships are made and children learn how to socialise. In addition, members of the local community meet up regularly for coffee, cake and bacon sandwiches so all age-groups are accommodated.”
Family hub plan
The family hub plan could also mean services cut at Pie Factory Music, the closure of Callis Grange children’s centre in Broadstairs and Priory children’s centre in Ramsgate. Courses at Broadstairs Adult Education Centre are earmarked to end with a relocation to Broadstairs library and services for adults with learning disabilities will no longer be held at Hartsdown Leisure Centre but will be moved to proposed ‘community hub’ sites.
On Tuesday (August 22) young people and staff from Ramsgate’s Pie Factory Music held a protest outside Dame Janet School where a consultation event over the commissioned service cuts was being held.
Community Day – give your views
The Pavilion is hosting an event on Thursday, August 31 from 10.30am-2.30pm which will include a chance to give views on the youth service plans to a representative from KCC. South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay is also expected to be there. The “Thanet Girls Can” event will also have many local organisations attending.
The community day will include a kids vs adults cricket match, Scorcha Skate School, craft and design sessions, sports and more.
Give your views
Respond to the consultation via KCC’s website / email / phone number by 13 September. Complete the online form at www.kent.gov.uk/familyhubservices
Or send your feedback by email, letter or phone: email@example.com / 03000 419292.
Consultation document: https://letstalk.kent.gov.uk/25821/widgets/73505/documents/44546
Callis Grange and Priory children’s centres among Thanet sites earmarked for closure in KCC ‘community services’ overhaul