I am writing to you in connection with the consultation regarding Devon Youth Service and this letter is on behalf of the Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary Local Action Group who have agreed its contents.
I am the Community Safety and Anti Social Behaviour Officer employed by East Devon District Council. I have been in this role for nearly 10 years during which time I have become very familiar with the role of Devon Youth Service.
Prior to that I had many dealings with them in my time as the Community Safety Team Sergeant for the district based at Exmouth Police Station.
The main point we wish to make is yes of course the Youth Service does provide a universal provision but after hearing the term universal used frequently in connection with the consultation process recently, we believe that this gives the wrong impression about exactly what your Youth Service staff do.
Speaking from an East Devon perspective I know all the Area Youth Workers and the type of work they are involved in. In terms of anti social behaviour, I chair monthly multi agency Youth Decision meetings and have been doing so for a number of years and we discuss those young people in the district who are causing anti social behaviour.
Over the years I would estimate that the Youth Service staff who attend my meetings, are aware of between 60% and 70% of the young people discussed. These young people for some reason gravitate towards Youth Centres and it is very reassuring to know that they engage with at least one agency namely, a professional well run service. If the service goes I can certainly see a rise in youth anti social behaviour.
Why do these young people gravitate towards the Youth Service? Maybe they realise that they will be welcomed and treated with respect knowing that anything they say will be dealt with in confidence.
They will be aware that they are subject to rules etc and will have boundaries set, but on occasions they will make certain disclosures to youth workers because they trust them. This is much more than a universal service.
Some of the young people who engage with the service come from challenging family back grounds and are perhaps on the cusp of criminal and or anti social behaviour, but they often freely engage with youth workers. They feel safe at Youth Centres and with the workers themselves.
Some of these young people will often witness at home drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and even worse. No doubt some are the subject of this abuse themselves.
DYS staff also give regular inputs to young people about alcohol, drugs, online safety, domestic abuse, relationships, citizenship etc.
This is much more than a universal service. Time permitting, they will carry out street outreach at ‘hot spots’ of anti social behaviour and their presence on the streets at these locations has a calming and positive effect.
Your Youth Service comprises a dedicated team of highly trained people who really enjoy their job, love helping young people and trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. The trust between staff and young people has been built up over a number of years and passed on. Once this provision is lost it will be lost for ever.
Our final point is please don’t confuse Youth Centres which your staff run with youth clubs which are generally staffed by kindly volunteers where youngsters can get a glass of pop, a biscuit and play pool. Youth Centres and your staff provide much more and we hope they remain.
Gerry Moore on behalf of the Sidmouth and
Ottery St Mary Local Action Group