Wycombe Labour challenged Bucks County Council to explain the impact its cuts to Connexions will have on vulnerable young people and children who are sexually active.
Connexions is a local authority-funded service set up to give information and advice to young people, particularly vulnerable young people
- in care,
- known to the Youth Offending Service,
- in Pupil Referral Units,
- with statements of special educational need, or
- with multiple barriers to re-engaging in learning or employment.
Connexions provides information and/or advice on a wide range of issues including contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Robin Sutchbury, Labour’s BCC Councillor for Buckingham, said
“Because of the Tories’ compulsion to reduce funding to public services, BCC’s youth services suffered massive cuts about 3 years ago. Now Connexions is being cut by 70%.
“At BCC’s Select Committee for Children Services last Tuesday, I asked if an assessment had been done to look at the impact of these cuts, particularly on the provision of information and advice on sexual health and contraception given to vulnerable children and young people.
Cuts to these services are contrary to everything we are trying to do in safeguarding young people. Young people – and children - rely on these services and we need to ensure there is alternative provision before we implement these cuts.
Initially I was told young people would be able to go to Citizens’ Advice Bureaux for advice. However, I doubt whether young people would go to the CABs, particularly for advice on sexual health and contraception – and I wonder if the CABs are geared up to provide this sort of advice.
Then I was told that a new service providing sexual health advice and treatment is to be launched this month called Buckinghamshire Sexual Health and Wellbeing (bSHaW).
However this service covers everyone and is not targeted at vulnerable children and young people. It is very unclear what resource will be put into providing advice for vulnerable young people, how they will find out and be encouraged to use the services and whether the service will meet their needs.
Do we really want more unwanted teenage pregnancies? Do we really want to see more cases of STIs with men and women finding out too late that they are infertile?
Funding these services for vulnerable young people is an investment – an investment in helping our most vulnerable children and young people have a healthy and fulfilling life. And an investment to prevent the costs of unwanted teenage pregnancies and sexual infections falling on the public sector in the future.
We cannot abandon our vulnerable young people. We need an urgent assessment of the impact of the cuts.”
Linda Derrick, Wycombe Labour’s spokesperson on health, said
“20 years ago, the UK had the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and abortions in Europe.
The last Labour Government introduced substantial programmes of sex education and sexual health advice for young people. Successive Governments maintained these programmes and the rate of teenage pregnancies halved, falling year on year.
Are the Tories now going to ruin all that good work due to the austerity cuts?
We all know young people and children can find it embarrassing to get advice on sexual health.
What they need is face-to-face advice from someone they trust, somewhere private, accessible and open on a regular basis and where they won’t be embarrassed walking through the door. Many young people in Bucks will also be reliant on buses or their parents to get them to this advice in what is a largely rural county.
It is also important for the vulnerable young people we are talking about to make sure they know where they can get advice and to give them help and encouragement to get it. The provision of advice needs to cater for the needs of the vulnerable young people and children rather than what is convenient and cheap for the provider. That is why the impact assessment is vital.
BCC says that safeguarding young people is one of their priorities. As usual, the Tories say one thing, and do another. Do they not think about the consequences of the cuts – or don’t they care?”