Burngreave Messenger.
Issue 41 May 2004
 

Future Deals

by Rob Smith

The lack of effective youth services in our community has been highlighted many times.

New Deal are currently negotiating a project with Sheffield Futures to deliver more youth services, which should be good news, but a Futures insider has recently informed the Messenger that youth centres have suffered cut backs as a result of a city-wide spending freeze and redundancies.

Many young people on our streets complain of a lack of anything to do which often leads to a rise in tension with other residents. Local workers have repeatedly complained of a lack of staffing to keep centres open and in use. The proposed new project, which promises four part-time detached youth workers as well as management, support and training for the project and the voluntary sector, will cost New Deal around £200,000 per year, with around £100,000 of additional money from Sheffield Futures.

Rose Ardron, Chair of the New Deal board said “We are determined that every penny of New Deal money buys new posts that local people can apply for and additional quality provision for young people in the area.”

New Deal invests in frozen services

Sheffield Futures was formed in 2002 from the amalgamation of Careers Guidance Service and the Council Youth Service as part of the government’s Connexions strategy. They then contracted with the Council to provide youth work but they ran into financial difficulties and introduced a spending freeze and announced redundancies. Despite this New Deal is planning to buy extra services from them.

Youth Centre cuts

Pedro Conner, secretary of the Sheffield branch of the Community & Youth Workers Union (CYWU), told the Messenger, “Youth centres and projects throughout Sheffield are closing down or reducing their hours as a result of the spending freeze. There have also been redundancies at the company.” It is Pedro’s belief it was a bad idea to amalgamate the the youth service and careers in the first place. “This is a feeling widespread throughout the company,” he said. “From the outset, the contract with the Council was flawed and short changed Sheffield Futures.”

Redundancies announced

In January 2004, Futures announced it was going to make compulsory redundancies. At first it was feared by trade unions that over 50 jobs would be lost and 34 people were advised their jobs were at risk. “Reduced staffing is now so widespread it is causing particular hardship in many areas. Many of those saved from redundancy are on temporary funding, due to run out over the next few months,” said Pedro.

The union has laid the blame squarely at the feet of Sheffield Futures mismanagement, saying they hired consultants costing thousands of pounds, recruited extra staff at a time when the company couldn’t afford it and spent thousands of pounds with public relations and marketing companies with inadequate financial systems in place. UNISON presented a 223 signature petition “Supporting Sheffield Futures Staff Against Redundancies and Subsequent Loss of Services” to the Council Education Department Scrutiny Board on 17th March.

Sheffield Futures Chief Executive Jim Reid presented a report to the Scrutiny Board and was able to reassure them that Sheffield Futures (a registered charity) was on a sound financial footing, which was subsequently confirmed by their auditors. The committee accepted his reassurances but noted the redundancies with concern. They urged Sheffield Futures to ensure robust financial monitoring mechanisms are in place to prevent further occurrences of this nature. Cllr Jackie Drayton said, “It seems to me that the organisation put in an extra layer of managers when they should have been concentrating on activitiesand services for young people on the ground in our communities.”

Helen Bale, Sheffield Futures Manager for the Burngreave Area, defended their record, saying the study carried out by the consultants was necessary to help with the harmonisation of terms and conditions and that they are required to spend money on promoting educational options for young people. She told the Messenger, “There have been six redundancies and six resignations including some who had come to the end of their short-term contract, but none of these were youth workers or worked in Burngreave. We are looking to improve the number of staff we have on the streets with support from Burngreave New Deal for Communities. The reductions on the Connexions contract mean that, although we have so far avoided redundancies in this area, the careers service we offer to schools is under review.”

 

 
     
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Index for Issue 39 March 2004.