THERE can be no doubt that there is widespread support for council-run youth services as the response to the petition showed, with people stopping on the street to ask and find out more.
As Wiltshire Council makes changes to the youth service provision to one in which they have barely any involvement, with the onus placed on local communities to step up and fill the void, a simple question arises - losing the 125 staff was easy, Wiltshire Council has had plenty of practice recently, and closing the 24 buildings that have served young people so well for decades to be sold for a quick buck also comes easy.
The disposal of all youth centre equipment might not be quite so easy - many items have been kindly donated - but this is not the question that comes to mind.
No, my question is, now that Wiltshire Council has effectively washed its hands of responsibility of running this important service by pushing youth services into community-led initiatives, who is now going to monitor the effectiveness, support and development of our young people?
Or to put it another way, who is going to measure the impact?
During the ‘consultation’ exercise many young people from right across the county spoke of the benefits that the service had provided for them, the importance of the skilled staff and the environment, which combined to form a key element to each of the youth centres’ success.
It is so tragic that having taken many years to cultivate and nurture staff, volunteers and the best model possible for providing a safe, accessible service that it will now become a service reliant on volunteers, shared spaces and, most poignantly, without the skilled and dedicated support staff. I am, of course, in no way wishing to put a dampener on the efforts that volunteers put in, but ultimately when someone moves away or becomes too ill to continue or simply decides their time to move on has come, there is no guarantee that someone else will step up to take on the role.
How are the young people of today expected to be tomorrow’s leaders if we fail to help them develop now?
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Salisbury Constituency