Vulnerable Bristol children who have been benefiting from a one-to-one youth service have found their funding cut following a Cabinet decision to move money to south Bristol.
The decision, which was found to directly impact on disabled children in the city, was passed at a meeting in City Hall this week.
In a report by Gail Rogers at Bristol City Council and presented by Asher Craig, proposals were made to reduce the youth service grants budget to £1.23m for 2024/25. This would reduce further to £825k from 2025/26 – of which £400k would be given to fund the revenue contribution to the new South Bristol Youth Zone.
Papers say the youth zone will primarily deliver universal services but also act as a ‘front door’ for young people who require ‘higher level services’.
Reports in the past regarding the youth zone have been criticised for including Lawrence Hill residents, who live in an entirely different part of Bristol. Plans have also been criticised for the new service not being free at the point of access.
The current youth service, provided by Creative Youth Network (CYN), provides targeted group support and one-to-one support for children and young people. This includes those with protected characteristics as well as young carers.
The move to cut one-to-one funding has raised concerns amongst youth workers in the city, worried that it will leave vulnerable young people in central east and north Bristol without the help they need.
Rogers’ report says: ‘We also have a statutory duty under the Education and Skills Act 2008 to support and promote effective participation of young people in education, employment, and training (EET) up to the age of 18 (or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND)). Local Authorities must also make tracking arrangements to identify 16- and 17-year-olds who are not participating in education, employment, or training or who are at risk of dropping out of learning, in order to offer support as soon as possible. Currently we provide EET services to meet this duty through both internal services and the Targeted Youth Services Contract.’
But the Equality Impact Assessment Approx says that ‘reduction in funding’ from Bristol City Council will impact on the 10 per cent of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities ( SEND) and those with learning difficulties, resulting in a ‘potential loss’ in services.
At Cabinet this week, one-to-one youth worker Elle Williams raised concern with Cabinet Education Lead Asher Craig over the loss of one-to-one support.
Williams asked if young people in the north of the city were considered in the proposal, saying: “With 1084 Young People in North Bristol receiving one-to-one support during the period of June 2021-May 2022, alongside an increase in waiting times post-pandemic, its clear demand is high and growing in this locality. You mention an aim of the new model is to ‘offer youth and play services that are local, diverse, culturally aware, trauma informed, flexible, skilled, and supported’ but without the current level of service; schools and social care (two of the highest referrers into CYN) would struggle to find an alternative provision to send young people who need help the most.
“Current one-to-ones provided by the targeted youth provision is often the only available help to young people, there is over a year wait for other services, particularly in mental health and schools are struggling as we have seen from the recent strikes.
“North-based young people who are often in crisis due to poor mental health, isolation and discrimination or bullying won’t have a one-to-one service to go to, because the funding will not be there. The South Bristol Youth Zone plans, geographically, have no benefit or impact to these young people whatsoever and seems to be what is going to take priority by 2025.
“Youth groups also seem to take priority in this proposal, but when there’s so many young people are anxious and isolated, it’s our one-to-one work that’s an integral part of the re-engagement process for many young people.”
Asher Craig replied: “Okay so young people in the North are considered equally in our proposals. Work is ongoing to agree funding splits across the areas and the north will not be disadvantaged. Indeed our medium-term commitment is to fund a second youth zone in the north of the city and we hope this is taken forward by a future Administration.
“One-to-one support is an unsustainable model and our intention is to move towards a blended youth work model that delivers support earlier. Group activities and detached work from community-based voluntary and Community sector organizations and that through their resources will allow young people to build ongoing relationships rather than short-term referral-based relationships.
“The new proposals will also entail some bridging Youth Work support for those who may need a little bit of extra help. the youth zone as I said is a part of our ambition for young people and our investment in in the future. And youth grants will ensure that young people in the north of the city as I said are not disadvantaged although we will also make every effort to help all the young people to access the youth zone wherever they live in the city.
In response, Williams said: “I think where you’re saying, of how north young people will be treated equally, the reality is if you’re starting to invest in south Bristol, I don’t see how that’s equal. I welcome these plans that you’ve just mentioned now about a second youth zone in the future, but that isn’t guaranteed. This is all just based on, you know, hoping that this is something that happens in the future.
“I think where you’re saying of how North young people will be treated equally, the reality is if you’re starting to invest in South Bristol I don’t see how that’s equa.l um I welcome the these plans that you’ve just mentioned now about a secondary youth zone in the future but that isn’t guaranteed this is all just based on you know hoping that this is something that happens in the future.
“The current one-to-one service is sustainable. It gets results and being a one-to-one worker myself, I can’t see how those one-to-ones that we work with currently are going to go to these youth groups and everything that you’re talking about if they can’t even leave their bedrooms.
“So one-to-one work is integral as I’ve said in getting young people to those youth groups in the first place. otherwise there won’t be youth groups to run if people young people will not like won’t be able to get there.”
A young person in Bristol with Send who has used the CYN one-to-one support in the past told us: “It’s bad they’re cutting it. Terrible because no one will have access to it. When I was stuck at home when I wasn’t in school for a long time, I needed help to get out. I couldn’t do it alone because my anxiety got in the way. I wouldn’t go to a group without that one-to-one support.”
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