Shropshire youth services changes cause concern says Tracey Huffer

A guest post from Shropshire Councillor Tracey Huffer, chair of Ludlow Youth Forum.

There are a lot of changes going on in youth services at the moment. They are happening without any real debate and without recognition of the expertise that has been built up across the county.

I am very concerned that Shropshire Council is withdrawing funding from the Shropshire Youth Association, which runs more than 100 youth clubs across the county and provides safeguarding support. It has a fantastic reputation, with years of experience and knowledge and it would be a great shame to lose this. Shropshire Council is putting the running of the clubs out to tender. I am concerned that this process might be driven by cost cutting considerations alone.

Youth organisations operate under strain at the best of times and provide a valued service in areas like Shropshire.

We have a very serious duty of care towards our young people and this contract cannot be given to anyone without the most stringent checks. The other issue is the waste of experience and working relationships built up over the years.

There is a worrying trend across the country of cutting youth services. Budgets have been cut by 36% (£438 million) in the last two years. Since 2012, 2,000 jobs and 41,000 places for young people have disappeared. My fear is that Shropshire will add to this total.

Youth organisations like Ludlow Youth Partnership need to know why we are embarking on a course of action that will only add uncertainty and could lead to less effective youth services in the future. I am concerned that Shropshire Council’s Young People’s Scrutiny Committee has not discussed these changes and will not do so until the end of October.

I have invited Gwilym Butler, the Cabinet member responsible for youth services, to a meeting of the Ludlow Youth Partnership to talk about the changes.