CUTTING back on youth workers will have a knock-on effect to Surrey’s children later on in life, a councillor has warned, as Runnymede prepares to lose almost 50 hours of provision a week.

Surrey County Council is slashing youth worker hours in a bid to save more than £2m of the £9.7m savings needed in the council’s Early Help provision

Cllr Clare Curran, cabinet member for children, revealed at a cabinet meeting last week that the numbers of hours of youth service provision each week in boroughs and districts across Surrey are planned to be reduced. Runnymede is earmarked to lose 45 hours a week – the second largest loss in the county – but Surrey Heath would only drop a single hour.

Responding to Cllr Jonathan Essex, Cllr Curan said a restructure would reduce delivery from 794 hours across Surrey each week to 618 and that £2.46million had been saved from freezing vacancies and integrating functions.

She said: “The impact of the overall staffing reduction is being mitigated by more flexible delivery alongside partner organisations under new borough and district youth work delivery groups.”

This week, Cllr Essex hit back, highlighting the biggest reduction would be in Reigate and Banstead where 50 hours of youth work would be lost.

He said cuts to early years help would have a long-lasting effect on children growing up in Surrey today and stressed concern that fewer youth services and workers helping children now would have a knock-on effect later on in life.

He said: “Early engagement is about doing the right things early to save problems later. Whether it’s running youth centres or providing youth workers. This is what holds our communities together. That’s invaluable. You cannot put a value on a strong community.”

He said Early Help was a preventative provision that impacted other services such as education, social services and the NHS.

“This is the stuff that makes things better in the long term,” he stressed as he said withdrawing help for people at early stages, especially children, would not solve problems they were facing.

SCC said it has to make £200m savings over the next three years.

The Early Help Strategy 2018 – 2022 draft being considered by SCC says it will develop a Local Family Partnership model and identify children who need early help through the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). A consultation on the changes to Early Help is thought to be happening in the summer.