Thousands more youngsters could benefit from council funding, under new proposals being considered by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC).
The Council’s statistics show that, of the 22,000 young people aged 13-19 in South Gloucestershire, only around 20 per cent regularly accessed a council youth centre in 2010/11.
And so the council is consulting on proposed changes to its children, young people and family services, including a proposal to allocate part of its youth budget on a per young person basis to ensure that more young people can benefit from access to positive activities – and a Conservative councillor has suggested a voucher scheme.
At the moment, the council allocates funding directly to youth centres, but these are not evenly spread across the district with many communities, particularly rural areas, lacking one entirely.
And even in communities where there is one, attendance figures show that they are not well-used.
This means that thousands of local young people currently have little or no access to council funded activities.
Cllr Robert Griffin (Con, Pilning & Severn Beach) said:
“The rural area that I represent does not have a council youth centre, but there are so many clubs, church groups and uniformed organisations, like the Scouts and Brownies, which large numbers of local young people participate in, but which attract zero council funding.”
“But this experience is not unique to Pilning and Severn Beach – it’s symptomatic of a wider issue not just across the rest of South Gloucestershire, but also across the rest of the country where you have a funding system based around buildings rather than people.”
“What we need is an end to the one-size-fits-all system that we have now and move to a system where young people can access positive activities tailored to their own individual needs.”
Conservative councillors Steve Reade and Ben Stokes, who represent the rural communities of Boyd Valley, added:
“We desperately need a fair system where 5 out of 5 young people can access council funding for positive activities, but sadly there will be powerful vested interests who will fight to retain the unfair status quo which sees only 1 in 5 young people benefit.”
“We need to fight hard for the change that’s needed to ensure that many more young people can benefit from the council’s youth funding, particularly in rural areas like Boyd Valley.”
A voucher system was suggested at a recent meeting of the council’s Children and Young People Select Committee by Cllr Rob Jones (Con, Bradley Stoke South). Commenting on the idea, he said:
“It’s an important principle that, in order to allow choice, youth funding should follow the young person – not necessarily a building.”
“I would like to see this principle extended as far as possible and that means examining ways to give each young person their own budget, maybe in the form of a voucher, so they can discuss with their parents the positive activity that would be most beneficial to them.”
“The council would then produce a list of approved providers, which could include schools, leisure centres, church groups, uniformed organisations and so forth, from which the voucher could be redeemed.”
“With youth service attendance being as low as it is across the district, we really do need to be thinking outside of the box and put as much power as possible in the hands of local families because its their money at the end of the day, not the council’s.”
Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council