A Thousand Cuts has published a comprehensive database of cuts announced so far to the Connexions youth service.
Connexions provides universal information, advice and guidance to young people, and works with young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to help them back into education or work.
The service is funded by local authorities with an area based grant (ABG) from central government, but after the coalition government cut this grant by 24 percent in June, applied to this financial year (‘in-year’), councils across England have announced cutbacks to local Connexions services.
A Thousand Cuts and Unison have now collated details of Connexions cuts from councils across England – the full database can be seen here. The database covers all councils that administer Connexions services, with information sourced from council announcements, local press reports, Children and Young People Now, and local Unison branches.
While some councils have yet to announce the cuts they will make, the database shows that many Connexions services are facing severe cuts to funding and jobs. Many local authorities are planning to scale back the universal Connexions service into a targeted service – although Lewisham is reducing support for NEETs with mental health issues, while East Sussex is cutting back projects for school students with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The Connexions services which are under threat of outright closure are:
- Windsor & Maidenhead – council is terminating the contract with Connexions at the end of March 2011; the council has emphasised this is due to government funding cuts, not the service’s performance
- Brighton & Hove – Connexions service at risk of closure, with schools having to provide advice to teenagers on issues such as sexual health, careers, housing and healthy living
- Birmingham – closure of the Connexions service is one of three options presented to council bosses, which would leave the council unable to fulfil its statutory obligations
Among the local authorities scaling back universal services in favour of targeted programmes are:
- Cambridgeshire – no more open access youth clubs, and 1:1 careers guidance only for Year 11 and upwards (and even then only for youngsters within the targeted group)
- Havering – service will become more targeted and deliver fewer universal services over the next five years
- Portsmouth – significantly reduced services delivered to school-age young people
- West Sussex – new integrated youth service will be targeted at specific groups, including young offenders, looked-after children, teenage parents and NEETs, with reduced funding for youth clubs and charities
While local authorities implementing large-scale job cuts to the Connexions services include:
- Norfolk – 50 per cent cut in funding, with 65 whole-time equivalent (WTE) jobs going; centres are being closed, and guidance will be delivered over the phone and electronically
- Sunderland – 41 WTE jobs at risk
- Halton and St Helens – at least 120 posts could go due to a nearly 40% cut
- Birmingham – Connexions expected to be hardest hit out of 430 job losses council-wide
- Staffordshire – 55 jobs at risk, including half the entire workforce at Leek
- Sheffield – 95 jobs at risk of redundancy
Regular readers of A Thousand Cuts will know that the in-year nature of the government’s cuts has magnified their detrimental effect, forcing councils to rush to cut any spending that is not legally committed, often regardless of how important the spending actually is.
In the case of Connexions, the fact that a lot of the funding for 2010/11 had already been legally committed or spent when the ABG cuts were announced has meant that the impact of 24 percent cut is being magnified for the second half of the financial year – because councils could not cut first-half funding which had already been committed, eye-watering cuts are being made for the second half. Among such councils are:
- Northamptonshire – 40% cut in funding for the second half of 2010/11, with all 175 staff placed at risk of redundancy; Unison fears 50 jobs could eventually go
- Sutton – 50-60% cut over the second half of 2010/11
- Cheshire & Warrington – 33% cut, with youth centre hubs at Northwich, Ellesmere Port, Knutsford and Congleton set to close
- Wigan – 40% cut, with more than £20m put aside to pay off staff
However, there are councils that value Connexions as an important service, and are trying to protect its funding by making savings elsewhere. Among those local authorities that have managed to avoid major (or in some cases, any) cuts to Connexions are:
- Stockton-on-Tees – no in-year cuts, as council is using uncommitted budgets, reserves and value for money savings to protect Connexions
- Black Country (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton) – cuts seem to have been achieved with redeployment
- Redcar & Cleveland – no significant cuts to customer-facing Connexions services, and no job losses
- Middlesbrough – no in-year cuts
Many local authorities have yet to finalise the impact of the government’s in-year cuts – many councils expect to reach decisions this month, so the national picture is likely to get worse. Moreover, the government’s October spending review may lead to even more severe cuts to local government funding – so further cuts to Connexions in future years may be on the horizon.
Over the coming weeks, A Thousand Cuts will be looking at the track record of Connexions, the issues around replacing universal services with a targeted approach – and will be looking at some of the local campaigns taking place to protect this service.
PS – If any information on the database is incorrect, or if there’s anything I’ve missed out, please do let me know in the comments below. The information published reflects the best available information at the time of publication
PPS – while this database has been compiled by A Thousand Cuts and Unison, no payment from Unison was ever requested, offered or received, and the entering of information and data into the database was completed entirely by A Thousand Cuts at our discretion