Communities to be offered help with youth services as part of budget plans

Young people and their families in Oxfordshire are set to benefit from improved community-run youth services if county councillors agree grant funding when they set the council’s budget next week.

Youth groups will be invited to bid in to a £1m fund over two years, with encouragement to find match funding from their local communities. Feedback from residents points to strong support for improving community-run youth services, and this money would help existing projects expand and new ones get off the ground.

By offering start-up funding, the council has already helped many community-run groups provide support for young children and families, and it is hoped the same could happen for youth services.

Community-run youth services would complement the work of the county council’s Children’s Services department, which targets its resources at children at risk of abuse and neglect.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the leader of the county council, said: “People in their individual local areas, towns and villages know best what’s good for their community and where they’d like to see improvements.

“It would be good to be able to offer teenagers in those communities the chance to have their own space to pursue their own interests and the company of other young people in a safe environment. Communities and our own county councillors tell us that community-run youth services are really valued.

“We want to try to reach out to all areas of the county, recognising good existing provision and offering additional support and offering help where there are gaps in services and where local people have energy and ideas to offer in terms of what could be delivered.

“We know that our thriving Oxfordshire communities share the county council’s ambition to give every child a good start in life and we are looking forward to working with them with this additional money.

“Oxfordshire is a county with a very active and dedicated voluntary sector and we are always delighted to work with communities to improve services and quality of life. We have seen communities successfully take on the work of former children’s centres in recent years with initial financial help from the county council, including stay and play sessions.”

How would funding bids be managed?

The money for the proposed new fund comes from better than expected Council Tax collection by district councils. There would be £500,000 available in 2019/20 and the same amount in 2020/21.

The council will set its budget for the 2019/20 financial year at the meeting as well as setting out plans for the years up to 2023. Included in proposals are plans to double the spend on children’s social care from £46m in 2011 to £95m by 2022/23.

The council’s budget for adult social care could increase by £5m in 2019/20, with further annual increases reaching nearly £6m by 2022/23 to increase support for the growing number of older and disabled people.

Cllr Hudspeth concluded: “Our budget is under pressure from the rising cost of supporting vulnerable adults and children at risk of abuse and neglect. This needs to be our top priority but I am delighted that we have found a way to help communities provide support for young people.”

The funds would be administered by a cross-party working group of Oxfordshire’s county councillors, chaired by Councillor Mark Gray. The proposals will be considered by the annual budget setting meeting of the county council on Tuesday, February 12.