Plans by Devon county council to press ahead with up to 170 youth worker job losses were condemned today (Monday 10 March) by Unite, the country’s largest union.
Unite said that its members were being made ‘scapegoats’ for a critical Ofsted report on the authority’s children social care service – though youth workers were not even part of that review.
Last month Unite warned that youth services that help more than 12,500 young people annually in Devon will become ‘a postcode lottery’, if the county council is allowed to slash the service’s budget.
Unite said that the county council is pressing ahead with proposals that could see all 34 of its youth centres close, which would mean up to 170 youth work jobs being axed, with the handful of youth workers remaining being deployed entirely into social work.
Unite regional officer Mark Richards said: ‘What I find most disturbing about these cuts to a vital community service is the lack of transparency and the constant reference to the damning Ofsted report on children’s social care.
“The council is failing to tell the public that the youth service was not even part of the Ofsted review. Our members are being made scapegoats for the increasing cost of social work; itself made worse by coalition’s austerity measures.”
Unite said that the authority needed to find over £100 million savings, yet it is paying out new bonuses to retain demoralised social work managers, alongside paying huge amounts to private agencies to provide fill-in social workers.
Mark Richards added: “Axing a value for money service, built up over the decades by loyal hardworking staff is not the way to balance the books and will lead to greater social problems in the future.
“The council undertook a consultation last September with hundreds of young people and voluntary organisations – and not one said that they wanted the youth centres shut.”
Unite warned that the service currently employed 230 youth staff – 114 full time equivalents (FTEs) – and within the year this could be pared down to 20-30 FTEs.
The authority wants to save £740,000 in 2014/15 and £927,000 in 2015/16. Council bosses are in the middle of a consultation process with staff and also at public meetings this month and in April. The council’s cabinet will then make a final decision in the summer.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.