Southwark’s youth service will be axed by 60 percent next year as dramatic government cuts begin to take a bite out of front-line services.
This could mean:
- 122 full and part time posts would be reduced to just 42 part time posts
- One or more of the borough’s eight youth clubs could close completely
- Youth clubs could turn into leisure centres
Richard Taylor, who founded the Damilola Taylor Centre after his ten-year-old son was killed on the North Peckham estate, said this was no time to cut youth services as serious knife crime continued to blight the borough.
“Bearing in mind the level of killing, stabbing and violence, this is not the right time. This is the wrong approach and a bad decision for the council.
“Even if the government is putting pressure on them they should understand their own circumstances and their community and what is going on here,” said Richard, who fears levels of violent crime in young people are going back up to what they were when his son was killed.
It is unlikely that the Damilola Taylor Centre in East Surrey Grove would close, but its state of the art facilities could leave it vulnerable to becoming a leisure centre open to the general public.
Richard said he would ask for his son’s name to be taken off the building if that happened.
“Let them hand it over to the Damilola Taylor Trust and we will find funds to run it if they cannot run it anymore,” Richard said, adding that if youth centres close, there will be an “increase of violence on the streets.
“More young people will be stabbing each other. For those kids that have been permanently excluded, if there is no centre for them to go they will be on the streets. They will have nowhere to go,” he added.
Southwark Council confirmed to the News that in order to deal with a further £96million of government funding cuts over the next three years, it was proposing to cut £2.5million from the youth service budget by 2018.
There would be £1.6m remaining to run the youth service every year but as it stands, no cuts would be made to children’s services (children in care).
“These are extremely challenging times for councils, our staff and our communities,” said Cllr Vikki Mills, Southwark’s cabinet member for children and education. “With vast savings to find on top of the millions already lost from each of our budgets, some very difficult decisions have to be made.
“It’s inevitable that in the coming years, Southwark Council will be a smaller organisation, but one that continues to take seriously our responsibilities to our communities, particularly to our children and young people.
“We want to work with those communities, with local people, every step of the way, to try to find innovative ways to deliver the services residents want and need,” said Cllr Mills who added that no plans have been finalised while a full staff consultation is underway.