Socialist Worker

Oxfordshire youth workers rebel

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2265

Youth workers at Oxfordshire county council are set to strike on Tuesday of next week over job cuts and service closures. This is the first in a series of walkouts, which will hit David Cameron’s Witney constituency.

Unite union members have voted by 93 percent for strikes in defence of jobs and services.

The jobs of around 80 youth workers, who care for hundreds of vulnerable young people across the county, are at risk as the Tory-led council pushes ahead with a restructuring exercise.

The council wants to offload the running of its 26 youth centres and two detached youth teams. The union believes that “dismantling the top class youth service will push young people onto the streets”.

Oxfordshire county council plans to slash youth service funding from £3.7 million to £1.4 million.

Mike Beal, chair of the Unite community and youth worker sector in Oxford, told Socialist Worker, “The council is doing away with youth work in this county under this plan.

“Every youth worker has been told that their post has been deleted.

“They are free to apply for the new ‘community hub worker post’, which may have a little bit of youth work.

“This will tear apart the youth service at the very time when it is needed most.

“Cameron broadcast his speech on Monday from inside a youth centre in Witney, and he didn’t mention youth work once.

“He said that the government cannot be on every estate or street corner. But youth workers can, especially in poverty-stricken areas.

“I don’t know how Cameron had the gall to do this. The Tories think that volunteers can provide the same level of service, but this shows they have a total misconception of what we do.

“Young people come in with difficult issues, such as teen pregnancy, that they need support and advice with. You can’t expect someone volunteering one night a week to be able to deal with this.

“I have spoken to a number of young people who say that without their local youth club they would be hanging out on street corners. Youth clubs provide safe places for them to go.

“In Banbury, where I work, the purpose-built youth centre is to be turned into an office base for 20 staff, with no youth workers in there.

“Oxfordshire county council is failing young people and its dedicated workforce of trained, professional youth workers.

“Enough is enough. Youth workers from across the country have been sending us messages of support. It’s a shame people in other parts of the country aren’t doing the same as us.”

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Article information

Tue 16 Aug 2011, 17:55 BST
Issue No. 2265
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