Today (September 13) is the final chance to comment on plans that involve cuts to commissioned youth services by Kent County Council (KCC).
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 will include Thanet’s Pie Factory Music and The Pavilion Youth & Community Café in Broadstairs.
The cuts will mean a loss of 45% of Pie Factory’s income, hitting the services it provides in Thanet and Dover.
Some 100 young people use those services and clubs every week but if the income is lost it will be “the end of open access youth work,” says Pie CEO Zoë Carassik-Lord.
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.
Pavilion manager Victoria Suchak 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“If funding is withdrawn we will not be able to employ people who deal with these issues or have the KCC training and huge support network they offer.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.”
County Councillor Karen Constantine is urging people to comment today before the consultation closes.
She said: “Our local youth services are absolutely vital. The Conservatives running KCC are currently consulting on cuts to commissioned youth services at both the Pie Factory in Ramsgate and also at the Pavillon in Broadstairs. These are the open access or ‘drop in’ sessions that young people can attend.
“KCC say that these young people can instead access these services in Margate! But for the vast majority the bus fare is too expensive, and the round trip of more than two hours will deter most from attending.
“I visited the Pie factory recently and was told how valuable the services offered there are. I heard how the support young people had received was life saving, and how the skills developed have led to further education and employment. I was lucky to meet such inspirational young people. The staff too are a great bunch who give 100%, youth work isn’t just a job – it’s a vocation.
“I’m urging all residents today to respond to KCC’s consultation. Today is the last day. Please take action to defend and hopefully save these vital services. Please respond to the consultation we need to act fast!”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments or click through to the consultation at https://letstalk.kent.gov.uk/
Family hub plan
The family hub plan could mean services cut at The Pavilion and 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 the youth commissioning cuts KCC says: “This is due to the financial pressures the council is facing. This means that some activities and clubs would stop unless the organisations are able to find alternative funding. We are keen to hear from service users how the proposed changes might affect them.”