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After months of delays, Bristol’s reduced youth services will finally launch in June.

Photos: Creative Youth Network

Bristol’s new youth services, which will take over from the current Bristol Youth Links (BYL) in June, are going to be awarded to just one provider, with a grant fund available for projects to bid for.

The awarding of the three-year contracts, which represent a 30% cut in funding, has come two months later than planned after delays in the commissioning process following appeals and reevaluations.

Creative Youth Network (CYN) will be taking on provision of all area contracts, including specialised work and services for young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). They will also subcontract to nine other organisations: Bristol Drugs Project, Young Bristol, Youth Moves, Full Circle, Babassa, Horn Youth Concern, Bread Youth Project, Southmead Development Trust, Empire Fighting Chance, and ACE.

“At the moment, all the providers work in their individual area, but what we’re wanting to do with the new contract is spend some time bringing young people together”

The council has also set aside some funding – the Youth Sector Support Fund – to be given out in grants to providers. Quartet Community Foundation will be awarding the first grants from the end of September.

The new model, Targeted Youth Services (TYS), is very different from its predecessor. As well as running on a much reduced budget – £3 million, down from £4.2 million – it is a much narrower offering, focused on the children most in need.

Play and under-11 work has been cut from the new model, which critics say has lost the early intervention that youth services were able to offer before. Children won’t have access to any kind of youth work until they reach secondary school and the service they do have will be less than has been previously available.

Sandy Hore-Ruthven, CEO of Creative Youth Network, says that having only one provider leading the contract will allow them to be more strategic in their provision and make it possible to build relationships between communities in a way that doesn’t happen under the current provision.

“If, for example, there are gang issues somewhere, we can move resources around the city in a way that we haven’t been able to up until now,” he told the Cable.

“We want to be able to bring people from across the city together. At the moment, all the providers work in their individual area, but what we’re wanting to do with the new contract is spend some time bringing young people together.”

A new approach: a pot of money for smaller projects

The mechanics of how the grant fund will work are still not finalised, but Quartet will form an advisory panel, handling four panel rounds a year, and CYN will help decide where the money goes. Hore-Ruthven says that the grants will be given to projects that fit around what CYN is doing with the main contract, so services aren’t duplicated.

“The idea behind it is that smaller organisations who aren’t getting funding through the TYS can still apply for the funding because we know that there are lots of other good organisations out there, whether it’s church halls, scout groups, small youth groups,” he said.

“It responds to the need that might emerge and also makes sure we’ve got a thriving charity sector working for young people across the city.”

A potential downside of grants is that they don’t allow organisations to make long-term strategies, but Ronnie Brown, philanthropy director at Quartet, says that grants are more necessary now than ever before.

“Discretionary grants for voluntary groups are much less because of local authority cuts and because there’s more demand and voluntary groups are being asked to do more and more with less and less,” he said.

“Our concern is how do we support these organisations to still be there and to grow and to respond to the needs of the communities they serve.”

Read more on: austerity, children, youth services...

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