Changes made ahead of budget cuts

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CHANGES are being made to the Northumberland Youth Service ahead of a cut in its budget.

A re-structuring is taking place, which officials say will help cover the county more efficiently, despite being told it will have less money to work with.

The final figure for the 2011/12 financial year has yet to be allocated by Northumberland County Council, but in advance the service is moving away from the current system of 14 partnership areas.

There will now be four areas — north, west, south east and mid-Northumberland — each with three dedicated youth workers who all have professional experience, starting in April.

At a meeting of Ponteland Town Council, Deputy Northumberland Youth Service Manager John Smith said: “We were asked early last year to devise a plan for how to deliver the service for less.

“We decided to redefine the patches we work in to provide a more consistent approach and because two youth workers were covering the same area, under this new system, in effect, there is just one less post than before.

“If someone was off sick for a lengthy period in one of the partnership areas, we found it very difficult to provide cover because they alone were responsible for that patch.

“But we will now be able to provide the cover across the county, so for example someone normally working in Berwick can fill in for someone in Ponteland.

“What we will continue to do is tell the people we employ to find out the needs of the community and young people in their area and they are then given the flexibility to develop a programme that fits.”

The service uses a wide range of informal learning opportunities, activities and experiences to address the needs of young people and develop their personal and social skills, targeting those that are disadvantaged or disaffected.

Youngsters are heavily involved in deciding what activities take place in their area.

Its core budget is for the 13 to 19 age range, but it can help older and younger people if funding comes from an alternative source.

Mr Smith added: “In these challenging times, everyone needs to work together to provide the best possible approach for young people in the county.

“We already work closely with schools and a range of other organisations and are looking to form closer relationships with bodies like the police and town and parish councils.”