By Grace Corcoran
Young people and families in Tunbridge Wells are set to be affected by Kent County Council’s (KCC) pending decision to cut funding to some youth services in a bid to save money.
As the Times has reported extensively, KCC needs to make significant savings in the coming years and one measure that is being considered is to not renew the youth service commissioning contracts when they end in April 2024.
The preferred option by KCC is to cease youth services contracts. This will mean that youth groups provided by Salus, an organisation who have been providing youth services in the borough for the past five years, will no longer be funded by KCC.
A spokesperson for Salus told the Times: “A loss of youth services has come at a time when it is most needed. The risk of child poverty and material deprivation has risen in recent years, making young people’s lives more precarious than ever. Within our clubs we try to ensure we offer access to healthy snacks for all young people as well as having discussions about help and support for families. Further cuts to youth services will mean that they have fewer prospects for education and employment as well as less support as they seek to make their way in the world.”
They added: “This has landed at a time when young people and the youth professionals that provide vital lifelines to them are struggling with the cost-of-living pressures and mental health challenges.”
The Salus Youth Team have supported over 8,000 young people across a variety of programmes, working in both local secondary and primary schools offering programmes to all young people, youth clubs providing a safe space for young people aged eight to 18 years, targeted programmes of work for SEND young people, as well as support for home-schooled pupils. The work Salus provides is aimed at giving young people the opportunity to engage within their communities as well as offer support and access to the services that they need.
Salus has also supported 20 young people to become young leaders within its youth clubs, providing them with training and support to become advocates and role models for other young people. This has led to nominations at the Kent Try Angle Awards and one young person winning a Spirit of Kent Award.
The team have dedicated youth groups in Cranbrook and Paddock Wood.
A public consultation was held to give parents and children the opportunity to voice their opinions. A response to the Tunbridge Wells consultation said:
“These activities take place in rural areas where there is already not a lot for young people or children to become involved with. Stopping these activities will mean there would be little to nothing available for engagement for these groups without travelling to Maidstone which would impact families financially, and also depend often on public transport being available.”
Another respondent said: “Youth activities are already very scarce and hard for rural families to access. Further cuts would be detrimental to the physical, mental and social well-being of our young people.”
The cost of the current youth contracts is £1.2million across Kent, with £79,589 spent in Tunbridge Wells. The savings made by ceasing these commissioned services would save the Council £913,000.
The Commissioned Youth Service Contracts report recommends KCC does not renew the current commissioned Youth Service contracts. The report, which was presented at the Children, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee on November 21, said: “From an operational perspective, KCC considers that the existing in-house provision, including proposed developments within the planned Family Hub model will allow KCC to meet relevant statutory requirements without the commissioned Youth Services. This is because the offer across the Council’s wider services including that provided by schools would meet this requirement.”
The decision will be made at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, November 30.