Youth and play workers decide to leave rather than apply for new roles at city council

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Loxley House, home to Nottingham City Council
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

Some youth workers have decided to leave Nottingham City Council rather than apply for new roles within a streamlined service.

The Labour-run authority is currently dealing with “a reduced youth service” as it attempts to recruit new people into roles and redesign the department.

The council is reducing the number of youth centres and play buildings across the city as well as reducing staff to claw back £38m over the next four years.

It has ended grant funding for NGY, run by youth charity Base 51 in Castle Gate, which works with disadvantaged young people aged between 11 and 25.

It has also decided to retain three additional staff in play and youth services following a public consultation about the plans, ensuring there are 15 youth workers plus a manager providing city-wide outreach.

Ailsa Barr, director of Children’s Integrated Services, explained the current situation to councillors at a Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, June 9.

She said: “Many of the staff in the old system did not want to take up the new roles in the service.

“They are quite different. We have not been able to fill all the posts in the new service, so interviews are taking place this week.”

Papers prepared for the meeting said play and youth workers have been accepted for voluntary redundancy and most will leave at the beginning of July.

The new play and youth service design will focus on targeted work at Bulwell Riverside, linking this to the future development of Family Hubs, which offer sexual health sessions and mental health support.

The council said: “The youth service is providing a reduced service over the coming weeks.

“They are ensuring that they are working with the most vulnerable, through group work session, one-to-one support from existing play and youth sites.

“They have supported families with signposting to other voluntary services delivering play sessions and sports activities in the local area, as play services have ceased following the Easter holidays.”

The five play and youth centres proposed for closure are presently being offered to lease to voluntary organisations, which will be “weighted around the financial sustainability” of those organisations interested.

The savings from the reduction in staffing youth services will mean budget savings are met and the savings for the buildings are on track to be met for the next financial year, the council said.

Cllr Carole McCulloch (Lab), chair of the committee and ward councillor for Aspley, had concerns about 15 youth workers operating city-wide.

“How are they going to work with all these partners? They are going to go dizzy,” she said.

Cllr Georgia Power, ward councillor for Bestwood, also wanted to ensure a reduced youth service meant that “young people do not fall through the net”.

The council has blamed the underfunding from central government for some of the tough decisions it has to make – a £100m reduction since 2013.

The local authority is, however, under the watchful eye of a government-appointed improvement board following the collapse of council energy company, Robin Hood Energy.

The failed company left taxpayers with an anticipated £38m bill and savings now need to be made to prove the council can become ‘financially resilient.’

If not, then government commissioners could take over the running of the Labour-run authority, as has been the case at other councils which have failed to show they have a way back from serious debts.

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