Transforming Kent’s Youth Service
A submission from the Dartford Constituency Labour Party (DCLP)
KCC’s youth service transformation proposals have significant implications for the scale, range and quality of the youth services that will be available in the Dartford area. Accordingly, the DCLP – after consulting its own members and councillors – is now submitting its views on these proposals; as part of KCC’s formal consultation process.
Proposed funding cuts – a core concern
According to KCC’s proposals, it is envisaged that £1.7m of spending cuts will be made – but that there will be an increased level of spend on commissioned services (by roughly £0.8m) to £1.2m. This therefore suggests a net reduction to total funding of approximately £0.5m – a significant cut given the size of the overall budget. Further, the DCLP notes that the cuts will be partly delivered through a radical reduction in the staff numbers of those at KCC who are involved in delivering youth services. Indeed, the consultation exercise proposes that 64.5 full time positions will be lost – representing a hefty 28% of the total staff employed by KCC youth services. At a time when youth engagement has seldom been more important – in the wake of this summer’s riots, for example – the DCLP is convinced that such deep and broad cuts to youth services is deeply short-sighted and totally inappropriate. Significantly, it also comes on top of the closure of the Highfield Youth Centre some years ago – and without any apparent compensatory increases in youth service provision in the west of Dartford and on Dartford’s Tree Estate. Essentially, youth services in Dartford are already stretched and these cuts risk making that situation worse.
The hub concept
The DCLP notes that KCC is proposing to make Dartford’s Thames Gateway YMCA building the main youth service delivery hub for the borough. While the DCLP accepts that the location of this facility, in the town centre, may make it a relatively attractive central location for young people throughout the borough, it is unclear that the facilities available at this site are actually superior to those elsewhere in Dartford. Against this background the DCLP believes that it is appropriate for KCC to reconsider – in a more thorough, transparent and analytical way – whether the Thames Gateway YMCA building is actually the most appropriate overall location for the Dartford hub. In particular, it is unclear from the consultation document exactly why the YMCA building has been chosen as the Dartford youth hub.
The possible closure of the Bridge Youth Arts Centre
The DCLP notes, with considerable disappointment, that – under the proposals – KCC no longer believes the Bridge Youth Arts Centre will be required for the direct delivery of youth services. Indeed, unless the facility can be involved in delivering services under the commissioning framework, the closure of the centre looks highly likely as a result of KCC’s proposals. The DCLP fundamentally opposes this approach. The centre at the Bridge is a purpose built, KCC-owned facility. Not only can a highly credible case be made that the facilities available there could well be superior to those elsewhere in Dartford (at the YMCA building for instance), but it is profoundly wasteful to close a KCC-owned facility that is located in the midst of such a fast growing community. Indeed, the demographic considerations are compelling – the youth population at the Bridge is set to grow strongly in coming years, and more robustly than elsewhere in the borough, meaning that the need for the provision of youth services within that community will increase dramatically. To close that high quality, purpose built, facility will, therefore, prove to be a deeply short-sighted and locally unpopular decision. KCC’s proposals should be amended to ensure that the future of the Bridge centre is at the very least, in someway, assured – regardless of the location of the hub.
Whilst the DCLP welcomes the inclusion of local youth service providers through a commissioned approach – where appropriate – the party also feels the need to highlight a number of concerns regarding apparent over-reliance on this model.
- The proposals appear somewhat vague regarding the precise role that local providers are expected to play in the provision of comprehensive youth services. Specifically, the outcome-based objectives that local providers can deliver do not appear to be clearly outlined.
- It remains unclear how KCC will approach the issue of overall youth service provision in Dartford should local providers prove to be unavailable or inappropriate.
- Given the scale of the cuts being proposed, there is a danger that too much of the strategy relies on local providers. This inevitably raises the concern that a situation could arise where service quality diminishes as funding falls and that overall coordination of service delivery is also weakened. KCC needs to continue to play a robust role – both at the strategic leadership level and through the direct provision of well-funded and comprehensive youth services.
Dartford Constituency Labour Party
27 October 2011