Valued youth support services in Bath and North East Somerset have been officially transferred to a new independent organisation run by former council staff.
The council’s Youth Connect Service has become a public staff mutual after council workers successfully applied to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for funding for preparatory work to move the service to an independent organisation.
The move means services to help young people will be provided by the new not-for-profit organisation Youth Connect South West which is a registered charity and has a five-year contract with the council.
It follows the need by Bath & North East Somerset Council to look at new ways of providing the service following budget cuts since 2017.
A new board of trustees with a 20 strong staff group has been set up following consultation with the community and young people over the past 18 months.
Councillor Kevin Guy, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “This is a new chapter for youth services in Bath and North East Somerset. Despite the challenging financial context, the council has preserved this key service and has supported the move to a staff mutual.
“A great deal of work and much consultation has happened to get us to this new beginning for a valued service which has the best interests of young people at its heart.
“Today’s launch means young people in our area will still have use of the Riverside hub, in London Road, Southside hub in Kelston View and the hub in Peasedown St John, and there will be additional support for those who need it.”
Ron Hopkins Chair of trustees from Youth Connect South West, said: “This is a new start for youth services in our area and we welcome the support from the council to get us to this new beginning. As a staff mutual we will be able to bid for funding that is not available to Local Authorities and utilise this to increase the range of services we provide.
“Youth Connect South West believes that young people should be able to access good quality services for young people; the aim of this transformation is to create a dynamic and flexible organisation which will work with communities and other youth organisations to create a diverse range of opportunities to support young people. Ultimately our aim is to improve young people’s lives, offer opportunities to engage in positive activities and have some fun this will lead to reduction in the likelihood of young people needing more expensive and intrusive statutory services in the long term.”
Public service mutuals are organisations that have ‘spun out’ of the public sector but continue to deliver public services and in which employee control plays a significant role in their operation. They can take on a range of legal structures, including charities, co-operatives and community interest companies; Youth Connect South West has been awarded charitable status.
As part of the change to youth services the Riverside hub has been leased to Mentoring Plus for five years pending a possible eventual asset transfer, to allow time for consideration of the longer-term use of the site.
Southside Youth Hub, in Bath, has been leased to Youth Connect South West and a decision about the Peasedown St John youth hub lease will be made later this month.