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Young fight service cuts

14:12 03 March 2014

Youth cuts protest at Devon County Hall. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref shs 1854-08-14TI To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on myphotos24

Youth cuts protest at Devon County Hall. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref shs 1854-08-14TI To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on myphotos24

Archant

Exmouth’s young people are urged to speak out against proposed cuts to vital county youth services - including mental and sexual health.

The call comes from East and Mid-Devon Youth MP George Downs, of Exmouth, who has hit out at a Devon County Council (DCC) consultation to save cash.

It is feared that axing £1million from young people’s services will threaten the county’s 34 youth centres, including The Hive in Exmouth .

DCC would cease running such centres in the hope they will be taken over by other organisations. Around 60 staff could lose their jobs.

George fears that county bosses could also scrap a vital £30,000 cash-lifeline to local voluntary youth groups, like the scouts, distributed through the East Devon Youth Forum, on which he sits.

Youth support over drug, alcohol and smoking issues could also be cut if the funding is lost.

Exmouth Community College student George is campaigning to retain funding by appealing to East Devon’s young people to join forces, find their voice - and speak out against the cuts.

Sixteen-year-old George is concerned youths are not being heard – claiming youth service campaigners were not allowed to speak at a recent County Hall meeting to discuss the cuts.

George fears the council’s consultation period over the future of the youth service cash is no more than lip service.

He said: “We say there’s no point having a consultation period. It’s a box-ticking exercise, in our opinion.

“Last Thursday, the budget was passed. It seems as if the cuts are going to go through.

“There’s a consensus it’s not fair. If it’s taken away without them being actively involved, not through a consultation process, the feeling is disappointment, and in some cases, disgust.”

He added: “I don’t want to lose the experience and expertise of [paid] youth workers.

“They are trained to spot behavioural changes that could be the early signs of young people developing mental health issues later on.”

The youth panel, on which George sits, wants its case heard by full council.

“Those present at the meeting did not have faith that their views were taken into account – views from that meeting were not transferred to the rest of the council,” said George.

“Our campaign group regards this meeting as purely tokenistic and undemocratic as minimal effort was made to take our voice into account.

“We believe that the only way for the voice of young people to have been heard was for our group to address the full council to guarantee that every single councillor heard our argument.”

A DCC spokesman said: “The action of the council was entirely proper and lawful.”

He added that decisions about the future of youth services will only be made after a consultation period has concluded and young people still have ‘ample opportunity to make their views known and be heard’.

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