Councillor Sullivan

Statement from Cllr Lauren Sullivan, Cabinet Member for Community & Leisure regarding KCC family hubs proposals.

Gravesham Borough Council has serious concerns about KCC’s proposals for changes to its current provision of universal services for children and young people towards family hubs – specifically the damage that would be caused by the cancelling of its youth contract with The Gr@nd, which would lead to a reduction of Youth Services for Gravesham’s young people.

Gravesham is a diverse Borough that boasts a vibrant and culturally rich community; but against that positive backdrop, it also has the third highest population density in Kent, high unemployment rates, oversubscribed education, a sizeable gap in life expectancy between men and women and some of the most deprived ward areas in England.

In that context, ensuring adequate provision of services and support remains available to our community is of paramount importance, particularly our young people, whose lives have been so heavily impacted by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.

Provision of services for young people for which Kent County Council as an upper tier authority has a statutory responsibility, has been declining, yet the demand and need is increasing.

Against that backdrop, The Gr@nd has consistently over-delivered and over-performed, increasing the numbers of young people supported and using its youth programme to support fund raising for additional services such as counselling support, which has seen a huge rise in demand due to increasing mental health issues.

The consultation document proposes the cessation of these youth contracts and therefore show a reduction of youth work, and yet commits to deliver community-based youth work by supporting existing and new local volunteer-led groups.

We struggle to see the point of that.

Ceasing existing contracts would result in undoing the years of work in developing successful links with the NHS, Kent Police, schools and educational partners, other community organisations and, importantly, the community themselves. 

Relying on existing KCC provision limits accessibility for young people living in other areas of the Borough and this existing provision has already been reduced since 2010.

This proposed model with further reduce this offer.

Volunteer led provision will also take time and core funds to develop and deliver including the need to meet requirements for buildings, training, qualifications, health and safety, and safeguarding. Asking trained and qualified individuals to do this for free demeans their value as professionals.

Yet this high-quality provision already exists and works successfully in Gravesham through The Gr@nd and has done so for more than 20 years.

The proposals as they stand will decimate existing youth provision at a time when young people are most in need of support.

We consider the decision to be flawed and urge KCC to re-consider the proposal to cease commissioned youth contracts.

If commissioning is to cease, then the youth work funding and resources, including staff, should be retained in full within the Borough.

The loss of The Gr@nd and more importantly the people and services it provides would do irreparable damage to support children and young people in Gravesham, the consequences of which really do not bear thinking about but one for which KCC, its officers and the administration will bear the full responsibility.

Cllr Lauren Sullivan
Cabinet Member for Community & Leisure

Published: Monday, 11th September 2023