Friday, 11 May 2012

Aaron's Judicial Review Challenge over Youth Cuts

The following article by James Franklin was published in this week's Weston Mercury

A MAN with learning difficulties who has launched a judicial review against North Somerset Council says the authority’s cuts to youth services have ‘ripped apart’ his ‘family’ of friends.

Aaron Hunt and his mother Alison launched their High Court bid as the council looks to cut its youth services budget by 71 per cent over the next four years.

Aaron, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, says the authority failed to take the special needs of those using youth clubs into account, while his mother branded the cuts ‘disgusting’.

Six youth groups including Spread Your Wings and the girls’ group at Milton and Old Worle Children’s Centre, and the girls and boys groups at South Weston Healthy Living Centre have closed as a result of the cuts.

Communities, charities and other organisations are in the process of creating new networks to keep open other clubs across the district.

Twenty-one-year-old Aaron, of Westfield Road, Banwell, is entitled to youth care until the age of 25. He used to attend the youth club at the Healthy Living Centre and said his group of friends was like a ‘family’. But he said the cuts had: “Made me very sad, and my friends sad too. It has ripped us apart.”

His mother says they have taken the step of seeking the review on behalf of young people across North Somerset. She said: “I think it is disgusting what the council is doing. This has left a lot of youngsters who used these clubs distraught.

“The council doesn’t know what it’s doing to the youngsters of North Somerset - they are our future and this could have a serious impact for years to come.

“The thing that annoys me the most is that they are wasting money here, there and everywhere, but they are making savings where children are concerned.”

The challenge claims the council breached its requirements under the Equality Act 2010 by failing to consider matters including the disability, sexual orientation and race of those using the youth services.

The Hunts are being represented by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) in their bid. They will hear in the next few days whether it will proceed to a full hearing at the High Court in London.

Daniel Carey, from PIL, said: “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.”

A spokesman for the council said it had given a ‘full and robust response’ to the claim, and said it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

This article by Alex Evans was published in this week's Weston Mercury:

Union asks for support

A TRADE union is asking youngsters to outline what their youth club means to them to support a judicial review into council cutbacks.

Unison wants young people who use youth clubs, or their parents, to email it about the importance of their club to back Aaron Hunt’s judicial review of North Somerset Council’s decision to cut services.

A North Somerset Unison statement said: “We need your help to support his case - we need you to write witness statements saying how you feel about your youth club and the cuts to youth services.
“This could be the last time local people can have their say about the cuts. If youth clubs start closing in six months time there won’t be much that anyone will be able to do about it then.”

The union is asking people to write in outlining which club they attend and how long they have done so, what they like about their club and whether anyone at the council asked them about potential cuts. People are being asked to write to by tomorrow (Fri)

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