Fears over cuts to Bristol City Council’s youth services

Bristol City Council has denied union claims that huge funding cuts will mean layoffs for young workers and the loss of job security for hundreds more.

Unison fears that a cut of £400,000 – almost a fifth – in funding for Targeted Services for Young People (TYS), which provide intensive 1-2-1 group sessions and outreach support for thousands of children, ‘hits disadvantaged young people the hardest and puts jobs in the community sector at risk’. grants for the youth sector, which the union “strongly opposes” amid concerns that staff could be left on fixed-term contracts as the money would only be available for specific projects.

The council says the future youth zone will provide ‘world-class services’ to many young people who are already receiving support, attract £900,000 a year from outside sources to help run it and create around 100 jobs for youth workers . It says the intention of moving from commissioned services to grant funding is to “build sector resilience” and help develop the workforce that supports young people in the community but has no certainty employment.

Read more: South Bristol’s £8m youth zone – ‘world class’ or ‘black hole’?

Targeted services for young people are the latest battleground between unions and council in the local authority’s draft budget for 2022/23 and beyond, as Unison has now formally raised two labor disputes – over cuts in museums and archives, and reductions in union set-up time. In a statement to the full council, which is due to meet to set the budget in the second attempt on Wednesday March 2, Unison said documents at the meeting suggested cuts of £200,000 in 2022/23 and a further £200,000 the next year. only half the story, with an additional £400,000 earmarked by TYS for the new Bristol Youth Zone.

Area organizer Steve Mills said: “This means that the real value of the contract drops by almost 38% and it is impossible to see how this will not lead to layoffs for our members in organizations that supply services for young people in the city. The council says this interpretation is incorrect and that ‘no further cuts’ are offered for youth support spending beyond the £400,000 by 2023/24 listed in the budget savings package.

It says the current TYS contract ends in 2023, at which point £400,000 of its remaining funding would be reallocated to the Youth Zone, which was agreed by cabinet in September 2020 for annual running costs of £1.3million pounds from the South Bristol project. Unison’s statement said Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Equalities Cllr Asher Craig told the union that the council was not only reducing the value of the contract, but also “sought to award funds and not commission the service of the youth sector eliminating the negative impact of competitive bidding”.

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He said: “The introduction of a grant-based funding model to replace tendered services is of great concern to us. Implemented incorrectly, it can easily result in a market for fixed-term contracts for workers, as organizations only have access to project-based funding.

“The removal of job security for hundreds of city workers is obviously something we strongly oppose. Those who serve our communities and help young people through some of the most difficult situations should not be rewarded with uncertainty about their own future. Any system must ensure that TUPE rights are granted to workers if and when project funding ends.

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: ‘By seeking to subsidize rather than commission targeted services for young people, our intention is to build resilience in the sector and work more collaboratively, to establish how funding can develop the workforce that currently provides support within the community without the benefit of job security. The full value of the proposed budget cuts is contained in the budget documents, this amounts to £200,000 in 2022/23 and a further £200,000 in 2023/24. No further reduction is proposed for youth support expenditure.

“The current contract for targeted youth services ends in 2023. At this stage, it is proposed that £400,000 of the funding from this contract will be reallocated to the Youth Zone, which will then provide world-class services to support many young people who have had recourse to support from youth services under the contract.

“This redirection of funds will allow an additional £900,000 of inward investment and the addition of around 100 jobs for youth workers in the Youth Zone. This use of funding expands the supply available to young people and increases opportunities for employment in the sector.”

But budget documents to the full council say: ‘A reduced budget will mean less capacity within the service and in all likelihood layoffs of supplier staff or vacancies not being filled. This is likely to affect the generic offer of youth/welfare work and the ability of the service to accept referrals for 121 support.

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“This may result in more working in partnership to organize group sessions or stopping some group sessions.” Services “affected by this proposal” include targeted positive activities for young people in disadvantaged areas, support for young people facing health and well-being difficulties, substance abuse and healthy relationships, support for young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or at risk of becoming NEET, and “provide responsive support when needed for particular issues such as crime, anti-social behaviour, sexual exploitation of children, violence and lack of community integration”.

The documents add: ‘The proposal is to reduce the targeted youth services budget by £200,000 in 2022/23 from a current value of £2,125,602 to £1,925,602 and then re-commission the service with a further saving of £200,000 in 2023/24. . “In addition to this, £400,000 will be taken from the budget for the new Bristol Youth Zone. This will be taken into account in the recommissioning and design of the new service.

Reports say the service currently supports around 2,500 young people via 1-2-1 support and 1,000 via group/open access per year, but pre-Covid the figure for the latter was also 2 500.

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