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Rotherham sex warnings are 'ill-judged', council warns

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: September 05, 2014

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A GRAVE warning that cuts to youth services could lead to 'another Rotherham' have been shot down by council chiefs.

The chairman of Winshill Parish Council, Ian North, said he was worried that removing some elements of safeguarding through swingeing budget cuts could leave youngsters in the area in danger of facing something similar to the horrific sex scandal recently uncovered in Rotherham.

But Staffordshire County Council, which provides youth services, said it was wrong to compare the two situations, adding that changes had been carefully researched and analysed.

Mark Sutton, cabinet support member for children and young people, said: "We carried out an extensive consultation to help shape a new, modern youth offer, and to try to somehow link this to the national scandal of the systematic sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham is, at the very best, ill-judged."

The authority is moving away from providing traditional youth centres, where young people can access support, to different ways of providing services, as they say three-quarters of young people do not use the facilities.

Third-sector groups such as the scouts or sports clubs could fill the gap, the council has said.

In Winshill, county councillor Conor Wileman suggested setting up a volunteer-led youth centre to replace the service, which is used by dozens of youngsters a night.

Councillor North said: "In my opinion, removing any infrastructure from current statutory services will have an impact on the ability of the county to effectively deliver a service that maximises the full potential of our youth.

"I consider that the decision to ask voluntary organisations to run such youth services, while carrying out a statutory responsibility, is a very short-sighted and ill-thought-out approach.

"It is my opinion that we will live to regret the day that these decisions were made."

The county council is currently reviewing the need for services in each district to assess their funding requirements.

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  • mattlong  |  September 06 2014, 12:33AM

    Councillor Ian North is one of the very few decent and hard working councillors who I have had the privilege to meet. (There weren't many in the party I used to be in). He is right to point to the devastating effects of the austerity measures on youth provision in our town. This being said I'm not sure that the invocation of the Rotherham scandal is well placed. This seems to be an attempt to utilise a 'moral panic' to galvanise support. The Rotherham case for me was far more complex than merely lack of resourcing. It was about leaders failing to tackle something because they feared the censure of being labelled 'institutionally racist' in a post MacPherson environment. This being said the previous poster is spot on. We must challenge Conor Wileman and his rationale for suggesting that the local authority pass their responsibilities on to a voluntary organisation. This is a material and substantive shift and for me represents the very worst of the Cameron 'big society' idea - namely that volunteers be dumped on. So come on Conor, I have complemented you and some of the undoubtedly good work you have done in Briz Valley and I have taken stick from the likes of online 'Terry' for defending Andrew Griffiths - what do you and the Conservatives have to say about this point that you are devolving responsibility from the state to the voluntary sector without justification?

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  • dottykat  |  September 05 2014, 11:43PM

    How dare the local authority pass their responsibilities for youth service over to a voluntary organisation. The Scout and Guide movement caters for children and young people who are prepared to commit to the organisation by turning up regularly and because of the programme planning that the volunteer leaders do it cannot be used as a 'drop in when you need to or feel like it'. Scouts and Guides have a uniform that they wear at meetings and not all scout or guide meetings are held at the 'huts'. I think this is the local authority just trying to pass the buck. I agree with Councillor North that all this action will achieve is to put youth back on street corners and leave them open to committing crime/being manipulated/bullied etc., etc., and I too will be watching this space for the future to see on whom the blame falls.

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