Youth services in Shropshire could change

Shropshire cabinet will discuss a new way of delivering youth support services, but some of the borough’s lower-tier councils are sceptical.

Under the proposals, town and parish councils will be asked to fund local open-access youth groups, which are currently paid for by Shropshire Council and a Local Joint Committee.

Councillor Ed Potter, who holds the Children’s Services portfolio, said: “The new model will enable us to build a trusted and appropriate network of youth support.”

But, in a report for the cabinet, Children’s Services director Karen Bradshaw writes that the local councils’ responses were “mixed”, with funding concerns and worries that their current provision might be threatened.

She writes: “Cabinet approval is now sought for the implementation of a new model of youth support across Shropshire. This will incorporate both targeted support through outreach/detached youth work and open-access provision.”

The former would be targeted and address particular complex issues, while the latter would be “not restricted to appointments or certain groups of young people”.

Cllr Potter said: “With an increase in youth crime, exploitation and demand on children’s social care, there is a growing focus nationally on the work councils need to undertake to ensure the most vulnerable young people can access and receive the support they need.

“This new model will enable us to build a trusted and appropriate network of youth support. Our aim is to strengthen and grow the current limited offer of support, extending the focus to incorporate Shropshire’s troubled and more vulnerable young people involved in youth crime, at risk of school exclusion and exploitation.”

Ms Bradshaw’s report says: “The consultation evidenced that generally there is support for the model set out in the consultation, but the feedback did highlight concerns. The main concern is that the new model has limited capacity and will not be adequately resourced and could result in the potential closure of open-access clubs.

“Responses from town and parish councils were mixed, some acknowledging a growing concern for their local young people and keen to work in partnership to develop a model of support, and others more reluctant, expressing concerns the new model would threaten their current open-access provisions and cited finding the funding for these clubs locally would be a challenge.

“Partners from the voluntary and community sector were concerned that the model being proposed could not be delivered within the timescales set out and that this would mean a loss of the current provision and ensuring staff delivering youth clubs are appropriately trained and supported.”

During the eight-week consultation period 342 surveys were returned, including 146 from children and young people. Shropshire Council is in discussion with four town councils and two parish councils who are keen to help develop the develop.

The proposed model of youth support would cost Shropshire Council £365,000 per year and would be implemented gradually, with a strategic lead and youth worker team working with interested local councils.

Ms Bradshaw’s recommendations include terminating the current commissioning model and agreeing the replacement, which would be trialled and implemented during 2020-21.

Shropshire Council’s 10-member cabinet will discuss the report when it meets on Wednesday, January 22.

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