Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Judicial Review over Cuts to Youth Services in North Somerset



High Court Challenge to Unprecedented Cuts to North Somerset Youth Services

Public Interest Lawyers Ltd (PIL) is representing a resident of North Somerset in a judicial review of North Somerset Council’s decision to cut Youth Services provision by over 70% between 2011/12 and 2014/15. The judicial review claim was lodged at the High Court in London on 12th April 2012 and a High Court Judge will decide in the week commencing 30th April 2012 whether the matter will proceed to a full hearing.

As a result of the challenged cuts, six youth groups will cease to operate.  These are the ‘Spread Your Wings’ and ‘Girls Group’ at Milton and Old Worle Children’s Centre; the ‘Just4Girls’ group, the ‘Girls Group’ and ‘Boys Group’ at South Weston Healthy Living Centre; the ‘Girls Project’ at The Barn, Clevedon; ‘Timeout Sessions’ at Clevedon School, and the ‘Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, Confused Group’ at Nailsea Youth House.  

Youth Groups at Backwell, Banwell, Bleadon, Castle Batch, Clevedon, Congresbury, Locking Castle, Long Ashton, Nailsea, Pill, Portishead, Weston and Worle are all affected. At the start of April, it was not clear in what form the open access Youth Groups aimed at young people from within South Ward in Weston were due to continue. The ‘Friday Fun’ group at Portishead Youth Centre was also at risk as no new service provider had come forward.

Whilst the Council has made limited finances available to ease the transition to community provision of youth services, their long term future is in doubt.  Other cuts are also expected as responsibility for all other youth provision is left in the hands of a handful of youth workers and local residents. 

PIL is representing a young adult who has attended a Youth Club in Weston for a number of years.  In his evidence to the Court, the Claimant describes how attending the Youth Centre feels like being ‘part of a family’. He is worried that this ‘happy family’ might be ‘broken up’.
The Claimant contends that North Somerset Council failed to thoroughly evaluate the impact and long-term sustainability of community-run youth services and that it failed to adequately consult the users themselves or even to make them aware of the scale and impact of the proposed changes.   He also argues that the Council breached its statutory duties under the Equality Act 2010 in failing to give due regard to its obligation to consider the ‘protected characteristics’ of a number of service users – characteristics such as disability, gender and race.

Considerable public opposition to the cuts to Youth Services has already been expressed (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-17127050).  The Claimant in the judicial review is being funded by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in his legal challenge, who are likely to require financial contributions from local residents who may benefit from the Council being forced to reconsider the cuts in question.  Persons who are affected by the cuts or who are able to make a financial contribution are being asked to email local campaigners on nsyouthserviceschallenge@yahoo.co.uk in support, or to contact Public Interest Lawyers below. 

Daniel Carey, a solicitor at PIL, said today:

“Youth services are highly valued by the young people that use them and have been the lifeblood of many communities for a number of years.  Their long term future has been thrown into doubt by the unprecedented scale of these cuts, which will bite harder progressively over the next three years.  For cuts of this severity, the law requires the Council to carry out a high degree of information gathering and to anxiously consider their impact before approving them.  But the Council has clearly failed to do this.  It is refusing to push the pause button on these cuts, so we have no option but to ask the High Court to intervene.”

For further information, contact:

Public Interest Lawyers: Daniel Carey and Cianan Good

Telephone: 0121 515 5069

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