Cuts to Kent youth services to go ahead despite protests

Pie Factory Music protested against the cuts earlier this year

By Local Democracy Reporter Simon Finlay

Cuts to threatened youth services across Kent are to go ahead to save the cash-strapped county council around £900,000.

Despite a public backlash and fears of a rise in gang crime and mental health issues, the decision to proceed with the closure of established facilities was rubber-stamped this morning [November 30].

The cabinet at Kent County Council (KCC) decided to adopt a Government-led scheme to bring essential services under one umbrella called Family Hubs.

The new funding arrangement will see the end of KCC subsidies for youth clubs and activities currently commissioned by the council but run by outside organisations.

Today’s decision followed a two-month consultation carried out over the summer.

Youngsters demonstrate against the  cuts

Earlier this year, Ramsgate’s Pie Factory Music’s CEO Zoë Carassik-Lord said: “We fail to see how the Family Hub proposal as it currently stands will satisfy KCC’s statutory duty to provide sufficient educational and recreational leisure-time activities for young people. After a decade of cuts to local youth services exceeding 70%, and at a time of increased need and demand for youth services, it is not reasonable to further cut such services.”

Young people and staff from Pie Factory Music held a protest in August against the proposed cuts which 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,” said Pie CEO  Zoë Carassik-Lord.

The Pavilion Youth & Community Café in Broadstairs will lose half its funding

Funding cuts to commissioned youth services will also hit The Pavilion Youth & Community Café in Broadstairs and 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, ended this month.

Victoria 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.”

Cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Sue Chandler pictured) supported the new model saying it would bring £11m of “transformational funding” over three years.

KCC, faced with falling government funding and rising costs, must find tens of millions of pounds in savings this year and another projected £86m in 2024/25, according to the auditors Grant Thornton.

A comprehensive report, compiled by Lake Marketing, revealed how the potential loss of services would affect communities. Now youth groups are faced with having to find alternative funding arrangements if they are to continue.

The subsidies they currently receive will end in April 2024.

KCC currently has 12 in-house youth hubs while other providers run services including music, sports, youth clubs, arts and drama clubs, as well as street-based activities such as skateboarding.

Services currently offered by children’s centres, youth hubs, health visiting and midwifery care would be delivered and funded through the Family Hub.

These are: parent-infant relationships and mental health support for new parents; infant feeding support; parenting support; early language development and home learning; support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and safeguarding.

The KCC reports states: “KCC is committed to delivering the best outcomes through a hybrid of universal and targeted support for children, young people, and their families, delivering services identified through the Family Hub guidance. This will include a community-based universal offer to provide information and advice on child and adolescent development.”

Kent County Councillor for Ramsgate, Karen Constantine, said: “Yet again KCC is shortsighted and fails to listen and acknowledge the needs of residents and young people in particular. The Pie Factory is the only open access youth service in Ramsgate. They meet with 100 young people a week. They also undertake a limited amount of detached youth work.

“Once closed, the young people of Central Harbour and Newington (the wards which the youth centre currently serve) will have to travel to the Quarterdeck Youth Centre in Margate to access similar services. This is over 5 miles away and will take around 20 minutes by car or between 55 minutes – 1 hour 16 minutes by bus at a cost of £2.00 each way (according to current timetables and prices).

“This is likely to disproportionately affect children and young people who come from low-income families who may not have the luxury of their own personal vehicle or may not be able to afford to pay for public transport. For example, according to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, 20.1% of children in the ward of Central Harbour come from low-income families, this figure rises to 44.7% in the ward of Newington.”

Gravesham Councillor and leader of the Labour group at KCC Lauren Sullivan said: “The proposals as they stand will decimate existing youth provision at a time when young people are most in need of support.”

Earlier this month, Cllr Chandler said: “We are talking about not continuing some of our commissioned youth services, but we are definitely continuing to deliver in-house youth services. We’re changing how we do that through our family hubs.

“But the reason we’re looking at this kind of area is because as a council we have to make savings to next year’s budget.”

17 Comments

  1. Disgraceful- the Tories levelling down project. Cuts to vital services and tax cuts for the rich. More kids roaming around bored. “The devil makes mischief with idle hands”.

    • “Roaming around bored”? Everyone in Thanet is within a few miles of a beach, and even nearer to parks!

      Give the money to us elderly instead. We’re worth it.

      • Tories have also taken away from adult social care’mrs
        Pink “ if you don’t believe me check with local AGE UK. Tories austerity hits all
        ages .

        • Hey Barry, how’s your boss Starmer feeling about the ceasefire that he did everything in his power to try and stop l? Is he chomping at the bit for bombs to start raining down on innocent children again?

      • First point you are not elderly.Last time I saw you had barely reached 60. Remember the young will fund your pension and choose and fund your care home, so maybe you would like to think about that,
        Second,this penny pinching will not save KCC from bankruptcy and only make things worse. What is the point of Kent without many of its household waste sites, libraries that are run down, roads un-repaired, bus services reduced,and adult social care in constant crisis?
        Thirdly, Kent outsourced, everything an now costs have rise, It could control costs by doing road repairs in house, especially pot hole filling etc.
        Kent has a selective school system which is expensive to operate, and as we have seen in Sheppey and in Thanet, the outcome for those rejected at age 11, means they turn their back on education and make those schools expensive to operate, with poor educational outcomes.
        If Kent goes bust their cherished sacred cow of selective education might well be slaughtered at the shrine of austerity.
        In my view the only way forward is for the Govt to wake up, fund local govt properly, devolve and restructure local govt in Kent.

        • George Nokes

          Well said if there was a like button I’ll press it !

          Your point about schools is spot on. Kent is the only county to have selected schools no other county does the 11plus. That proves that KCC doesnt care about kids, 1000’s of young people made to feel second best by the age of 11. Now KCC are stopping funding for these young people, the people that need support after the powers at be turned they backs on them when they were 11 years old.

          Young people are our future yet government and councils and other bodies treat them so badly. To many people live in the past, it was ok in my day, it might have been we when at school didnt have all this pressure of league tables, social media etc.

          I heard on the news that the savings are only around a couple hundred grand. Peanuts yet KCC can find millions for a new train station and millions for the art sector.

          I think its disgusting that the turner centre brags about having over 100,000 visitors. TC thinks it great. But just think if the TC charged an entrance fee and took the burden of the tax payers. These millions the TC are happy to take could be spent on our young and vulnerable.

          We in this country treat out young, old and vulnerable terribly and it’s only going to get worst under the Tories.

  2. The days of evil Thatcher the children’s milk snatcher have not got any better over the years, grab all and give nothing back that’s the Tories for you.

    • Yep Bill the Tories have history with treating kids poorly as you say Thatcher the milk snatched.

      Turner Centre here we need another couple of millions for some new lights. No problem how many millions do you want ?

  3. Windmills & Children’s services too expensive, yet they love throwing millions at the ‘art’ in Turner & the noise pollution of Dreamland every year.

  4. Tories like to say it will be bad if another party gets voted in & think they can get away with what they do. They will pay for it when the election comes.

  5. The Tories simply don’t care what happens to anyone their cuts damage – they know that they won’t be around after the next election to face the consequencies, and they are doing their best to to make life difficult for the children, and people young and old who suffer as a result.

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