ALL youth workers in Wiltshire are now under the threat of redundancy amid fears that vulnerable youngsters will be left without expert help following a Wiltshire Council decision to slash staff numbers.
The redundancy process started yesterday as the council cuts the number of youth workers from 144 to just 25.
Unite regional officer Alan Tomala said: “This is our worst fear being realised and there is a lot of anger out there not just from our members but from the young people the council is meant to be looking after.”
Scores of youngsters packed the public gallery last Thursday to hear Wiltshire Council’s cabinet ratify a plan which will save £250,000 from the youth services budget.
Afterwards there was anger among the young people who accused the councillors of failing to listen to what they had said during the 10-week consultation period which generated 2,000 responses.
Leah Lock, 19, who regularly attends the Canberra Youth Centre in Melksham, said: “They haven’t listened to us at all.
“Without the youth workers Melksham is nothing.
“The youth workers are the main reason everyone goes to Canberra, because everyone gets along with them.”
At the moment the majority of youth workers are employed on a part-time basis which equates to 48 full-time positions but by October all the 25 jobs on offer from the council will be full-time posts.
Last Thursday the council voted to go-ahead with a community model that will pass the running of centres over to area boards. In the future if more youth workers are needed on top of the 25 funded by the council they will have to be paid for by charities such as Youth Action Wiltshire.
Lib Dem leader Jon Hubbard accused the council of putting vulnerable youngsters at risk by depriving them of youth workers with whom they had built up trust over a number of years.
He said: “I have received an email this week from a young person who is really distraught at the thought of losing the youth worker who has really helped them.”
Cabinet member for youth services Laura Mayes said after the meeting that she understood the anxiety of young people but said she was confident that the pain being caused now would ensure the youth service would survive in the future.
She said that youth club buildings would start to close quite quickly as saving money on the centres was one way the council was able to keep more staff. But she pledged no building would close until an alternative venue such as a village hall was found.
Major changes are expected to start in October and be complete by April, 2015.