Youth Staff Fear Integration Will Dilute ‘Outstanding’ Work

Staff at one of the country’s best-performing youth services fear its good work could be undone when it switches to an integrated youth support model of working next year.

Somerset Youth Service was awarded an “outstanding” rating by Ofsted inspectors in April for the high standards of its work. But now the local authority plans to split young people’s services into eight localities and disband the current youth service from April 2008.

Each locality will have a manager who will be responsible for delivering a range of services for children and young people up to 19 as well as traditional youth work in the area. But the plan has met opposition from some staff who believe it could potentially dilute the excellent work of the youth service. One described the move as a “kick in the teeth”.

The future of certain youth work staff also remains unresolved as they either don’t currently have a role in the structure or are reluctant to take on new responsibilities.

But Robert Sampson, county youth service manager for Somerset, denied there would be job losses. “No-one will be made redundant under the new arrangements,” he said. He added that although inspectors had praised the youth service, they also noted that it needed to build on partnerships with other agencies working with young people locally.

Gill Millar, regional adviser at the youth work unit Learning Southwest, said she sympathised with the staff: “I can understand their concerns. You don’t become an outstanding service overnight.” Millar stressed that senior youth workers should also see this as an opportunity: “They will be in a strong position to become locality managers because of their existing skills.”