Hartlepool’s youth services at risk in latest budget cuts

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Youth and children’s services in Hartlepool are set to be hit as budgets are slashed in “savage” cuts.

Sessions provided by Hartlepool Borough Council are due to be reduced, and the budget for young peoples’ activities provided by other agencies on behalf of the authority will be more than halved next year.

Councillor Alan Clark

Councillor Alan Clark

Council chiefs have warned front-line services are at risk due to the size of the savings needed to be found.

Over the last five years, the Children Services department of the council has made savings of £6.18 million.

But it says it needs to find about another £3.2 million in the next few years, blamed on continued cuts in central government funding.

Councillor Alan Clark, chair of the council’s Children’s Services Committee, said: “Savage cuts like these are really going to start hitting front-line services.

Savage cuts like these really are going to start hitting frontline services

Councillor Alan Clark

“We have dealt with it really well these last six or seven years but I think from next year we are going to see cuts to front-line services and people need to be aware of that.”

In the next year, it is proposed to ‘redesign’ the council’s internal youth service to save £169,000 from its £569,000 a year costs.

It will see a number of job losses and reduction in youth workers’ hours.

And the budget for a service contract for young people aged 5-19 is also due to be slashed from £345,000 a year to £160,000.

The current contract has been provided for the council by a consortium of organisations of West View Project, Changing Futures NE, Wharton Annex, and Belle Vue Centre.

A council spokesman said: “In light of significant budget cuts faced by the council, it has been acknowledged that the funding for this contract cannot continue at the same level.

“Therefore, the council and providers have been working together to look at options for the delivery of young people’s activities in the long-term.

“It is agreed that the best option is to develop a Young People’s Foundation which will be a membership organisation that any young people’s provider can be a part of.

“Work is on-going to develop the foundation which will aim to attract external investment into the town.

“The funding identified at the recent meeting of the Children’s Services Committee (£160k) will be used to support the on-going delivery of young people’s services whilst the foundation is developed.”

Alex Sedgwick, of the Belle Vue Community Sports and Youth Centre told the meeting he feared the centre’s contact with families could be lost due to service cuts.

Ms Swainston said the department is working hard to find about £1.6 million of the savings from pressures on demand led costs with reviews of residential and foster placements to make sure they are value for money.

A full review of all services will be carried out in 2018-19 and 2019-20 when children’s centres, children’s social care teams and all commissioned services will come under the microscope.

Councillor Brenda Harrison said: “I think it needs spelling out to people it’s not individual councils that are making these cuts, it’s the Government and we are having to deal with it.”

The council says it is fully committed to working with partners to improve the lives of young people through A Better Childhood in Hartlepool strategy.

It will involve delivering multi-agency services within communities to help identify those in most need earlier.

The spokesman added: “We will also be reshaping the youth service to work with these localities to ensure young people can access activities.”