Communities across Wiltshire are being invited to offer their ideas to help ensure that the provision of youth activities in the future reflects and meets the needs of young people.
People across Wiltshire – particularly young people – are being consulted on what activities they would like in their local communities as part of a wide-ranging review.
The 10-week public consultation exercise on the future of youth activities involves schools, young people’s groups, voluntary organisations and local communities. The consultation asks for their opinion on four options for future provision:
- Retain the current in-house service but reduce the value – a number of options would be considered to make the required savings and deliver a service that meets the needs of young people in local community areas.
- Outsource the service – this option would involve developing a new service specification for the provision of positive leisure-time activities; shaped by key stakeholders, including young people based on the resources available.
- Encourage and support staff to form a Public Service Mutual (PSM). A mutual can deliver a public service involving a high degree of employee control. It can operate for profit, not for profit, charity, social enterprise and community interest company.
- Develop a community-led approach which will empower communities via community area boards, with funding from the council, to develop and make available positive leisure-time youth activities within their local area
Whichever option is agreed for future provision a key aim is to target funding and resource more effectively and to continue to protect services for vulnerable young people. The council’s preferred option at this stage is to develop a community-led approach (option 4) and to tie-in with the emerging campus programme – an innovative scheme which will deliver services which communities want to see in their area developed in multi-purpose, modern community buildings. The first of these will open in Corsham at the end of June 2014.
Currently a relatively low percentage of young people aged between 13-19 access the council’s youth activities while the majority are likely to be involved in other community, voluntary and commercially provided activities.
Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children services said that it is vital that activities for young people are modern and reflect the needs of young people and the communities in which they live. She added:
“The needs of the youth of today are very different from the provision we put in place 10 years ago and the future activities for young people needs to move with the times.
“We are calling on communities to help us shape youth provision and activities. We need to reach more young people while ensuring our service is cost effective. We are encouraging everyone to look at the options and respond to the survey so we can ensure as many people as possible have their say.
“The continuing challenging financial climate is clearly a significant factor, but we believe the development of community campuses is an excellent opportunity to target youth activities right in the heart of the communities they serve and to be able to continue to fund these activities in the future, unlike many other local authorities across the country.”
The continuing financial challenges mean tough decisions to reduce spending over the next four years (£120 million) will need to be made. It is proposed to reduce spending in next year’s budget (2014/15) in the youth service by £500,000 per annum. The budget will be considered by full council on 25 February.
Wiltshire Council will continue to coordinate activities for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities.
Young people can take part in the survey by visiting Sparksite Wiltshire’s website for young people http://www.sparksite.co.uk/ and anyone else wishing to make a comment on the review can email the council’s voice and influence team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a recent cabinet meeting council leaders considered a report detailing the four options for the future provision of youth activities.
The consultation will involve linking with schools, focus groups, young people’s groups sending out 20,000 text messages to young people linking to the survey, voluntary and community services and community area boards. A final report based on the feedback and proposals for the future provision of positive activities will be considered by cabinet members in April.
As a local authority, Wiltshire Council has a statutory duty to secure for young people aged 13-19 access to sufficient positive leisure-time activities to improve their well-being. For more than 10 years, Wiltshire Council, and the former county and district councils, met this requirement through the provision of an open access development service for young people. The youth work team of the Integrated Youth Service currently operates across the county, offering a mix of centre and street-based youth work with an annual budget of £1.3m.
In the 10 years since the service was first established the lives of young people have changed considerably. The rapid expansion of home entertainment, the growth in the number of commercial leisure providers, and the launch of smart technology combined with the phenomenon of social networking means young people are growing up in changing social environments and living very different lives.
In 2012, the Department for Education set out a new approach called Positive for Youth, which included updated statutory guidance on services and activities to improve young people’s well-being. Local authorities were reminded of their responsibility to continue to support young people, especially those who are more vulnerable, to engage positively in their communities and make a successful transition to adulthood. The government also defined a new role for councils to shift their role to be an enabler of services, rather than a direct provider, with an enhanced role for the voluntary and community sector.
The council’s campus developments will offer new opportunities for local communities including the younger generation to participate and get involved in a range of services, activities and local decisions that affect them. The first campus opens in Corsham in June 2014.
To help manage increased service expectations particularly in safeguarding and social care the council along with partner organisations has developed an Early Help Strategy. This seeks to improve outcomes for children, young people and families by providing the right help as soon as it is needed. To deliver this strategy the council needs to re-focus its youth services so that young people who need support are provided with help they need before problems escalate and reach crisis point.
The continuing financial challenges means tough decisions to reduce spending over the next four years (£120 million) will need to be made. It is proposed to reduce spending in next year’s budget (2014/15) in the youth service by £500,000 per annum. The budget will be considered by full council on February 25.
 Up to age 24 for young people with a learning difficulty.