West Sussex County Council is considering giving up its licence to run the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
The proposal has been made after the government announced it would be stopping its Think Family Initiative (TFI), a move which will cost West Sussex £560,000 in grant money in 2019/20.
In an attempt to protect its own hugely successful TFI, which has helped around 5,000 vulnerable families since its launch in 2012, the council wants to move resources from three other projects.
The proposals are to give up its DofE licence, saving £54,000; to stop subsidising and delivering the National Citizen Service, in Arun and Chichester, saving £78,000; and to stop providing drivers and workers for the Purple Bus youth service, in Chichester and Horsham, saving £37,000.
Along with the TFI, all three are part of the integrated prevention and earliest help (IPEH) service. The remaining £391,000 of savings will be made by reconfiguring the service and reducing its non pay budget.
The proposals were discussed at a children and young people’s services select committee meeting on Wednesday (October 31).
While understanding the importance of the TFI and its value to West Sussex families, some councillors suggested the proposed changes would be little more than ‘tinkering around the edges’ in an attempt to help it survive another year.
It was a concern made even more valid when Paul Marshall (Con, Storrington), cabinet member for children and young people, told the meeting that 2020/21 would see a further £1.2m cut from the budget.
Committee chairman Michael Cloake (Con, Worthing Pier) called the news ‘the spectre of cuts to come’, while Sue Mullins (Lab, Northgate and West Green) said she was ‘very disappointed’ that the council was considering cuts.
Mrs Mullins, who is a member of the DofE committee, added: “I’ve seen the difference it makes for the children who take part.”
She said: “We’ve lost so much of our youth services already. To lose even more is a real dereliction of our duty. What’s going to go next?”
A spokesman said the council was ‘actively seeking’ someone to provide the DofE scheme and did not expect the 3,360 young people currently taking part to be affected by the proposal.
Back in 2016 neighbouring authority East Sussex County Council considered stopping being the co-ordinator of the DofE scheme but backed down after a petition against the move gained more than 6,000 signatures.