Campaigners fight ‘catastrophic’ plans

Service users and staff from SAFE lobby Cllr Clare Neill at Derbyshire County Council's HQ.
Service users and staff from SAFE lobby Cllr Clare Neill at Derbyshire County Council's HQ.

Campaigners fear controversial cost-cutting plans could have a “catastrophic” effect on scores of vulnerable young people.

SAFE – which helps disadvantaged 16 to 24-year-olds – faces extinction because of a proposed 85 per cent funding cut from cash-strapped Derbyshire County Council (DCC).

The group fears its demise would ruin the lives of hundreds of needy young men and women in Derbyshire and is rallying to defeat the contentious proposals.

SAFE – which is made up of the Framework, Adullam and Stonham organisations – supports young people who are the victims of family breakdown, domestic violence and sexual abuse as well as those with mental health problems.

Andrew Redfern, of SAFE, said: “These deep, unprecedented and unfair cuts would mean the loss of more than £800,000 annually – leaving us with just £172,000 a year – and we wouldn’t be able to continue.

“This would have a catastrophic effect on Derbyshire’s most disadvantaged and troubled young men and women.

“The council would effectively be abandoning the county’s most vulnerable young people to a life of transient homelessness and social exclusion.

“Unless something is done to reverse this disastrous plan there will be no safety net for these very needy young people,” he added.

Young people who have been helped by SAFE descended upon DCC headquarters in Matlock on Thursday to lobby Councillor Clare Neill, cabinet member for adult social care.

The authority is having to make a raft of difficult decisions as it bids to slash £157million from its budget as a result of Government cuts.

Nathan Harding, 19, of Chesterfield, has been receiving support from Framework for the past few months. The depression sufferer got into financial difficulty and feared he would end up homeless.

He said: “I’ve received vital, life-changing help and I’d urge DCC not to make this cut – a lot of people would end up in a lot of trouble.”

Teresa Harding, a support worker at Framework, added: “We provide vital services to hundreds of vulnerable young men and women and I’m really concerned that many of them will get left behind if this plan goes ahead.”

SAFE is urging members of the public to write to DCC leader Anne Western to oppose the proposals, which are set to be debated by county councillors next Tuesday before going out to a three-month consultation.

Cllr Neill said: “I have some very difficult decisions to make and I am fully aware that there will be very grave consequences to those decisions. If I don’t cut this service, I have to cut another and I will be lobbied by the people who will be affected by that.

“I’ve asked SAFE to think about where the council wastes money and where we duplicate activities with other agencies. I would gladly cut money by improving how we do things rather than cutting services like this one. It is not a legal requirement for us to provide this service.

“Homelessness rests with the district and borough councils so if any young person becomes homeless as a result of the cuts to this service they would need to contact those authorities.”