Young People Wonder: Whose Side Are You On?

In Oxfordshire we are told that youth workers are being told by their managers that the Oxfordshire County Council is looking for blood; that it would prefer to sack rather than pay redundancy. Further it is reported that youth workers discussing the campaign against cuts with young people will be disciplined for breaking the Council’s code of conduct!  Young people themselves are rightly outraged – see Matt’s response in the previous posting and the comment of young people in Haringey. We hope to hear that youth workers are similarly outraged and refuse to be intimidated by such a crude attack. Plans are afoot to tour the area’s youth centres and hold debates outside if necessary. A public meeting is to be held on February 1o.

Meanwhile in Haringey the Save our Centres group pile on the pressure with another response to the politicians.

Dear Mr Goldberg
Thank you for taking the time to respond and we are glad that you state you are still committing your support however at present they do feel like empty words, the time for words when the scissors are snipping is over and the youth of the borough are requesting is firm supportive action. We still have grave concerns about your intentions and the actions you are taking behind the supportive words you speak, these concerns derive from facts which we will highlight to you
You state that you and your colleagues are against the cuts, most of the boroughs population are too. However we do not see what actions you are taking to oppose these cuts, the community is protesting and resisting yet you and your colleagues, who are elected to represent us, are obeying! It feels that you are no longer the shield of the people but the pawn of the government, you have allowed them to use you by doing their dirty work for them and very little for the people you are elected to serve. So what we, and no doubt the rest of the community are requiring is feedback on how you feel you are opposing these cuts and what you feel you have actually achieved.
We are in agreement that you did inform us that the youth service is likely to receive ‘significant’ cuts and we are in agreement that you offered us to be involved in shaping the service, however we are in strong disagreement we agreed to shape a service after you had already decided upon the cut, already have pre-shaped and limited our input. Cutting the service by 75% leaves no room for us to be involved with any integrity, it is an insult that you believe this actually gives us power and autonomy, it is shocking that you believe that this equates to you being open and honest. What we believe you agreed is to involve us in what is required and would base the cuts around an agreed set of priorities. This is the commitment and promise you have broken, this is the commitment and promise you are playing cheap politics with. 75% is not ‘significant’ it is drastic. Let us start to be honest and open,
1. Why have you already identified the cut if you were involving us in the priorities? How did you come to the conclusion that what we wanted equated to 25% [£0.6m]? We believe you made the decisions without us and are providing us insincere lip service that you done this with our mandate
2. Why is Councilor Reith, present at our meeting, already telling the press what the future shape of the service is if you sought to involve us? Why is the document stating you will be providing less centre based work? Even with the remaining 25% you wish to involve us with you have already made up how you will divide this but claim you wish to involve us?
3. How has the service already identified the reductions before they have concluded their consultation? What was the basis of their equations?
4. Where is the equality impact assessment we requested in Dec 2010? Have you made this 75% identification without considering the impact on the community?
5. Why are we being presented in the consultations with pre described priorities you have for the service? Take a look on the youthspace website and ask yourself whether that is sufficient when we already know that you have made a cut by 75% and you have not mentioned this.

With all of this evidence are you still prepared to claim that you are giving us power to make and influence decisions? Please Mr Goldberg, we urge you to stop using words that have no substance. It is damaging your reputation and undermining your attempt to break the stereotype that all politicians are hypocrites. We have already seen politicians unshamelessly go back on their pledges and we have had enough, our anger comes from our belief that you were different and we vested our trust in the wrong person.
Let us be clear that we understand a cut to the youth service was coming, as stated below you have a £4m [out of the £23m] shortfall from the government but the youth service massacre is contributing the most of the £4m shortfall when you should be seeking to utilize it as a resource to more effectively meet the up and coming needs of the youth in the borough. You are cutting a service that will save you money if you allow it to function properly, the £2m saving you think you have made are a false economy, the service prevents issues where young people get to a stage where the bill for cure is 8 times higher.
It worries us that Councillor Reith has the audacity to claim that closing the centres leaving only one open and only running a few nights a week would lead to the “postcode issues not being such a problem with young people!”. How can a politician elected to lead on young people honestly believe that this postcode issue, that is ruining and in some cases ending the lives of the youth in our borough can be enhanced by a reduction in services? Where is the evidence based for this offensive claim? Where is the consultation with gang members that this is their solution? Research conducted by Professor John Pitts of Bedfordshire Univeristy and the Director for the Vaxuhall centre for the study of crime states that ‘the youth work method is the most effective means of reducing young people’s involvement in gang crime’. Recent research by CYP Now this week stated that “youth work was key in preventing gang membership” Please stop using political buzzwords to justify your actions, playing on the fears that the community has of postcode wars and leading them to believe this is the solution they seek. If you genuinely are seeking a solution of postcode wars then cutting one of the only services that gang members of Haringey, [some who are active members of SHYC] have been open about engaging with and have benefited from is not the answer. Mr Crompton met many gang members in Nov 2010 and he saw the passion in which they spoke about the service. Have you viewed the video of that discussion? Some of our members who have been involved in crime have met with your colleagues in recent months to help with a panel about youth crime where they and their parents have made it clear how the service has helped them. Have you seen this report?
It further worries us that Councillor Reith is citing that there is an “enormous plethora of voluntary groups” working with young people, according to Fiona Clark CEO of Get Connected, 4 voluntary organizations working with young people a week are closing. According to Sir Stephen Bubb,  CEO of the Association of CEO from Voluntary Sector Organisations (ACEVO) “The sector faces significant challenges in the months ahead. We’re hearing daily reports from our members about how cuts from both central and local government are hitting their organisations hard” a concern echoed by Doug Nicholls from Unite. According to our adult supporters from community organisations they have had their grants cut by the council and are at risk of closure. So how big is this enormous plethora and how big will it be in future months? Was this a feeble attempt to weaken the support we are getting from the community by letting them believe that they could benefit from the closures of our centres? We may be young Mr Goldberg, but we hoped that when we met with you we demonstrated that we are not weak, these type of games are an insult to our intelligence and they are causing us offense.
To summarize our requests:
* We were promised a proper consultation we do not believe we have got this. We request you stop stating you are consulting us and start to consult us properly.
* We would like you to stop making decisions like the cut or sharing your visions with the press until we have been properly consulted
* We would like an evidence base and an impact assessment produced on how you achieved this figure of 75%
* We would like to see the results of the shaping our service report where you stated that all 2236 signatures of support to the youth service will be counted in this survey.
You are right, we do not have time, the consultation with us should have started from October 20th when the government announced its budget plans. What you are doing now is playing catch up to show you have done something and we are making it clear we will not be manipulated in this fashion. If you do not believe that we have been involved in a facade or been sidelined, then we ask you to do a proper investigation in to the way we have been treated by your organization and seek to rectify it so we can start to use our time effectively to do right by the youth of the borough.
We are meeting with your consultation team on Wednesday but this will be the first of many meetings we will be having as we do not believe one hour is sufficient enough to seek our views.
Matt, Lisa, Daniel, Kevin, Peter, Abdul, Trevona, Shauntai, Symeon, Areeb, Pareece, Cordel and the SHYC campaign.

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