Youth clubs in Bradley Stoke are once again facing an uncertain future after local Councils informed the current service provider that they are to withdraw funding from 31st October.
An announcement posted on the website of Southern Brooks Community Partnership (the current provider) earlier this week explains that the Town Council and South Gloucestershire Youth Service have informed the organisation that they are not satisfied with the delivery of youth work in Bradley Stoke:
“We have failed to work with the numbers of young people that they were hoping for, or to engage as fully as they would have liked us to. While both Councils acknowledge that there has been some really good youth work, including the recent residential, they have decided to withdraw funding from Southern Brooks Community Partnership from October 31st 2011.”
SBCP has been delivering youth work in Bradley Stoke for over ten years but its relationship with the Town Council has often been a troubled one. In late 2008, the Council decided it wished to terminate its direct relationship with SBCP and instead work “in partnership with South Gloucestershire Council (SGC)” to provide youth work in the town. The re-think came after one Councillor described the number of youths being engaged by SBCP as “abysmal”.
A lengthy tendering process for a contract governed by the revised working arrangements led to SBCP being re-appointed to run the service until the end of 2012.
Signs that all was not well in the working relationship between the Councils and SBCP surfaced in April when an SGC report described youth club attendance by 13-19 year olds as “very low”. The paper was also critical of SBCP’s inadequate reporting of data to SGC and concern was expressed that Patchway Baptist Church seemed to be no longer contributing to the delivery of youth work (as required by the commissioning agreement).
A meeting of the Town Council on 13th July saw the press and public excluded from discussions on two topics titled “SGC/BSTC Youth Monitoring Arrangements” and “Youth Provision in Bradley Stoke”, a move justified by Mayor Ben Walker on the grounds of their “sensitive and confidential nature”.
The minutes of the July meeting give no clue as to what was discussed or decided during the closed sessions, both items being annotated as “CONFIDENTIAL”.
The Town Council itself has not formally announced the premature termination of the youth work contract but when The Journal asked for a statement, the five Bradley Stoke Town Councillors who also sit on SGC offered the following:
“As both South Gloucestershire District and Bradley Stoke Town Councillors, we have become increasingly dissatisfied that the current provision seems able to regularly engage with only a fraction of the town’s young people, despite a great deal of investment and promotion over recent years.”
“Such questionable value for money goes against both the spirit and letter of the service level agreement that both councils had jointly agreed with SBCP.”
“We need to know why so many young people choose not to make use of what is currently on offer to them and that’s why an engagement strategy is planned to find out what services for young people in Bradley Stoke should look like in the future.”
“Our priority is to ensure as seamless a transition as possible to a refreshed youth provision that appeals not only to the limited number of young people who make use of it at the moment, but to the rest of our town’s young population who choose currently to give it a miss.”
In its announcement, SBCP says it will continue to deliver the existing service for the next three months and work with young people who currently attend the centre to make sure that they are aware of other provision they can attend. The article concludes:
“Our immediate concern is to assure parents, families and young people that the termination of this contract does not mean that funding for youth work in Bradley Stoke is being withdrawn. We are confident that the Town Council and the Youth Service is committed to providing for the needs of the large population of young people in Bradley Stoke, and in the meantime will ensure that some provision is in place from November.”
Footnote: In February, SGC voted to put an extra £58k into youth provision in Bradley Stoke for the financial year 2011/2012 following lobbying by local Councillors, who claimed that the town was getting a poor deal compared to others in the district. We are yet to hear how the Councils will utilise this extra money.
Photo: Happier times at the Brook Way Youth Club – young people join Jack Lopresti MP in promoting the BB4FABS Better Broadband campaign.
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