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Lifeline to youngsters threatened by sweeping budget cuts
6:00am Sunday 13th January 2013 in News
THEY have 150 vulnerable children on their books who spend their spare time caring for poorly mums, dads, brothers and sisters at home.
Many are as young as eight and for just two hours a fortnight they get to escape their duties at home and be children once again, sharing their stories and getting support from other youngsters just like them.
For the older carers, aged between 12 and 16, a couple of hours a month going out for a milkshake or to the bowling alley is nothing less than a lifeline.
Such is the success of Southampton’s Young Carers Project (YCP), run by a group of 18 volunteers, that countless more children are on a waiting list desperate for a place.
But in just a few weeks’ time the organisation, run by Southampton Voluntary Services, could well be no more if plans to axe their annual £89,000 grant are steamrolled through.
They are just one of dozens of groups used by children in the city that will lose some, if not all, of the money they have been receiving to provide vital schemes for youngsters in need.
So deep are the cutbacks to help the council save £20m it is estimated that, under the current proposals, almost 1,000 children’s places will be lost at charity-run groups and organisations, who will no longer receive some of the vital cash that helped them to exist.
They are startling figures produced by opposition party chiefs who, unsurprisingly, say they would have done things differently if they’d been in charge – and certainly never have made the “crazy” decision to pull the plug on funding for the YCP.
Today the Tory party has revealed it is throwing its weight behind a bid to get those holding the purse strings to change their minds and save the YCP – something they say is “vital” in the city.
Jeremy Moulton, deputy leader of the Tory party, responsible for children’s services, said: “Our view is simple – we don’t think there should be any cuts to this service because what it provides for our most vulnerable children is absolutely essential.
“We urge Labour to rethink their plan and if they are refusing to back down then they should at least take time to work with the group to find other solutions that don’t involve cutting them off at the knees. To not at least meet them halfway and spare them time would be quite cruel.”
Julie Marron, team leader for the YCP, said morale with volunteers and staff was understandably low but people only had to meet the youngsters they support and listen to them to understand how important it was.
She said: “It is truly inspirational and humbling when you stop and listen to these children’s stories.
When you see them go and enjoy themselves just for a couple of hours you know that we are providing a vital service for children who don’t have the opportunities that so many do.
“Young Carers is about giving them a sense of purpose, a sense of themselves. We make them realise they are not there just to do that job at home, that there is something else out there for them and we can show them what they can have and achieve.”
The city council is understood to have received dozens of representations from under-threat organisations fighting for their survival including the YCP.
And today, the councillor responsible for children’s services gave her biggest hint yet that the group could “possibly” be saved after calculations were made on the actual grant received from the government this year.
Sarah Bogle, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We have met with the young carers and it was a very passionate meeting and there was a very good explanation of what exactly they provide. This was very much a proposal and we have now got some alternative proposals to take forward – and young carers is one that we have looked at.”
She added that “there is a possibility”
the group could be saved but said it was “all in the melting pot”. A decision will be made next month.