Newcastle SOS file Freedom of Information request as struggle continues

On the March in Newcastle, February 2
Anne Marron, lecturer in Youth Work and a member of the Newcastle SOS campaign has written the following letter to Nick Forbes, the Leader of the Newcastle City Council, together with a Freedom of Information request, which is to be found below. It may be that the FOI request can be used as a model by other campaigns.

Freedom Of Information request for information regarding the provision of Youth Work and Youth Services by Newcastle City Council 2013

Hello Nick

I am writing to you as a matter of urgency.

I understand the considerations facing the LA at this time and the economic, political and ethical dilemmas this presents. However, as a lecturer in Youth Work at Durham University for the last 11 years, a former Youth Worker/Service Coordinator in North Tyneside and Newcastle resident it is with great concern that I write to you regarding your proposal to cut 100% of the Youth and Play service budgets and inherent reactivity to the demands of Central Government by Newcastle City Council.

Your proposal to cut Youth Services seems extremely limited in its understanding and without due consideration for the long term consequences. When we supported local communities and young people out of the last recession in the 80’s with the demise of the ship building, fishing, mining and steel industries (some are still recovering) Youth Work, Play Work and Community Development services were key to the transition and local responses to this. Youth Work offered and held a critical role in negotiating and developing ideas with partners,developing local initiatives, businesses and training agencies in supporting young people to considering new options, develop new and relevant skills which would enable them to take up opportunities as they arose as an alternative to falling into the costly consequences of long term isolation, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, chaotic drug and alcohol use, mental health, criminal activity and further domestic violence. The Welfare Reform and changes to benefits due in April will significantly effect local neighbourhoods and in particular young people which will add another deeply significant dimension to this. I don’t need to expand. We should remember our recent history at this time and think long term about our responsibilities to our children and young people and communities in the future.

I understand you are keen to hear suggestions for alternatives and I suggest we form a working group to look at this together. This should include yourself, current youth service providers, youth service apprentices, young people and voluntary sector neighbourhood projects across the city, Newcastle Youth Council, SOS:Save Our Services Campaign and In Defence Of Youth Work representatives, relevant academics and especially your representatives from the areas most severely effected by the current recession. You will have this data.

I suggest we should plan ahead by identifying the real needs, how we can utilise all the available resources including buildings, local businesses, and there are many others. Look at the current situation and long term, using local and national knowledge, available data, statistical information and current research then put together a rigorous argument to Local and Central Government regarding what is needed in Newcastle. We can also use it in response to Central Government’s gleaming prejudice towards the North East.

The information we need to create a clear picture for a needs based budget is available from partners in the region and organisations who hold knowledge of the local area. We need to hold off for a moment the business model of targets and outcomes and focus on local needs not just the local budget and explore the most effective ways of addressing these. The current model of competitive commissioning should never have been introduced to the caring/helping professions without considering how this would effect the neighbourhoods. We need to preserve local services rather than hand them over to unaccountable, unmonitored private business generated on the back of people’s need for help, support and care. I suggest you make available a time and space in the next month to do this, put on hold the decision about the Youth Service and invite this group to a genuine consultation, to meeting together and explore the way forward. I would be very happy to attend.

There’s a danger that people only see the Youth Service in Newcastle now while it is hanging by a thread and not understand the benefits of a well managed, resourced, ‘professional’ effective service provided by skilled, informed and committed staff able to engage and build relationships and develop services appropriate to the needs of local young people who would otherwise be ignored.

As you will know the Youth Service in Newcastle has been systematically dismantled over the last 10 years. I will send you separately a copy of the Freedom Of Information request related to this for which I am awaiting a response.

Yours sincerely

Anne Marron
Community and Youth Work Unit
Durham University

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