Young people are ready to take control of services in Lambeth, but what about the 6 million pounds cut?






We look forward to following closely the progress of the ‘cooperative’ Lambeth council’s commitment to young people taking charge of certain services within the Borough. As a first step a meeting was held on July 5 to explore the creation of a Young Lambeth Cooperative with Leader of the Council, Steve Reed opening the event. At this stage the process is being facilitated by Bill Badham and Alex Farrow on behalf of  Public Services Mutuals.

According to the report drawn up by Alex, which can be read in its entirety here,

The event and process is truly innovative and a first in the UK. From next year, a new cooperative organisation, with young people as its members, will take control of a multi-million pound budget and be legally responsible for the commissioning and delivery of children and youth services in the borough.

In trying to get a grip on this development with all its seduction, a number of initial questions emerge.

– What was the process through which the 70 young people attending emerged?

– Were any youth or play workers involved in the dialogue at this stage?

– How does the proposed multi-million pound budget compare with the funds previously available? In March 2012 the Council agreed to cut six million pounds over the next three years from youth services. These cuts are vigorously opposed by Lambeth Save Our Services.

We’ll do some more research, but any information would be most welcome. This first concrete step towards the mutualisation of these public services in a climate of cuts, yet with young people purportedly at the helm of affairs, deserves our most serious, critical attention.



  1. I agree with Tony – this seems potentially to be a hugely significant development in young people’s ‘participation’. I’m glad therefore that a start has been made to explain and document the process and hope this will continue in ways that are analytical and reflective as well as descriptive. This will then give the rest of us with a commitment to young people genuine empowerment the chance to learn from it. In due course I’d particularly welcome knowing in more detail about how the young people came together; how realistic boundary-setting is being achieved within wider Council legal, financial and bureaucratic constraints; and how training and on-going support for the young people involved is being provided, by whom. There should surely be some important lessons, too, on how to develop and sustain genuine mutuals which I hope will also get wide dissemination, including who are the best allies and partners (national as well as local) for supporting them and how vital assets such as buildings are kept secure long-term for public use.

    Bernard Davies

  2. I’m always slightly puzzled when things are said to be run or led by ‘young people’ as if this is an intrinsic good, as if young people are a homogenous group, as if there are no power differentials, and as if it’s a self-evident process. (Does it make much more sense than saying adult services are overseen by ‘adults’?) I am also more than suspicious when young people’s involvement is used as a way of hiding or justifying cuts.

    Even apart from this, I would also point out that youth workers should as a matter of course be involving the young people we work with at all levels of organisation and decision making – this is part of our everyday work. Putting a very small number of young people in positions of overall power and responsibility is no more important than the smaller levels of trust and responsibility given to tens of thousands of young people by youth workers every day. Management, leadership, inspections etc (whether or not these include young people) need to support youth workers to include and involve the young people we actually work with, including those who do not want to be involved in managing multi-million pound budgets. Having young people as leaders is not in itself radical or democratic if underlying power structures are left unchanged and unchallenged.

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