‘Sleeping bag’ protest over Devon youth service cuts

‘Sleeping bag’ protest over Devon youth service cuts

03 April 2014

About 20 young people will be taking to their sleeping bags in Okehampton, Devon tomorrow (Friday 4 April) in protest at the proposed swingeing cuts to youth services in the county.

Young people from Okehampton and Tavistock will be staging the ‘sleep in’ - dubbed ‘Occupy Room 13’ - at room 13 in the Okehampton youth centre between 21.00 tomorrow and 08.30 the next day (Saturday
5 April).

Unite, the country’s largest union, has 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 as part of a £100 million savings drive.

Unite regional community coordinator Brett Sparkes said: “It is great that these young people feel so strongly about these cuts that they are prepared to take part in the ‘sleep in’ protest’.

“We hope this protest will help galvanise demonstrations and attendance at public consultation meetings this month on the county council’s plans. There is deep anger at the nature of these cuts to the youth service.

“Youth services are a vital, perhaps last, port of call for Devon’s young people who may be struggling with housing, employment and abuse issues.   

“The campaign is continuing, with more demonstrations across the county being planned. Young people, including young Unite community members, are attending the consultations and are asking searching questions of the councillors and officers.”

Unite deplored the fact 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 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. The council’s cabinet will then make a final decision in the summer.


For further information please contact: Unite regional community coordinator Brett Sparkes on 07718 666593 or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940

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.