Councillor Sullivan

Statement regarding family hubs proposals from KCC.

We have serious concerns about proposals for changes to family hubs from Kent County Council (KCC). Specific concern about cancelling of its youth contract with The Gr@nd, leading to a reduction of Youth Services for our young people.

Gravesham is a diverse Borough with a vibrant and culturally rich community. It also has the third-highest population density in Kent, high unemployment rates, over-subscribed education, a sizeable gap in life expectancy between men and women, and some of the most deprived ward areas in England.

Ensuring provision of services and support remains available to our community is of importance, particularly for our young people. Thee are many lives that have been impacted by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.

KCC has the statutory responsibility for youth services, which has been declining, yet the demand and need is increasing.

The Gr@nd has consistently over-delivered and over-performed. They have increased the numbers of young people supported. Their youth programme supports fund raising for additional services, including counselling, which has high demand due to mental health issues.

The consultation document proposes ending these youth contracts which will result in a reduction of youth work. KCC commits to deliver community-based youth work, supporting existing and new local volunteer-led programmes.

We struggle to see the point of that.

Ceasing existing contracts would result in undoing the years of work in developing successful links with partners. Including 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 will further reduce the offer.

Volunteer led provision will take time and core funds to develop and deliver. Meeting 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. It works successfully in Gravesham through The Gr@nd, and has done for more than 20 years.

The proposals as they stand will end 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