Turmoil as youth services chief quits

Andy Peaden,Interim Chief Exec, of Sheffield Futures.
Andy Peaden,Interim Chief Exec, of Sheffield Futures.

YOUTH services for thousands of city teenagers have been thrown into turmoil by high-level resignations at Sheffield Futures.

A council troubleshooter has been sent in to take charge of the organisation which is facing £750,000 of cuts to its operations, which include careers advice and a variety of support services for vulnerable youngsters.

Chief executive Lucy Oliver quit late last week along with several board members, putting the future of the whole service in doubt.

Now the city council has appointed an interim chief executive, Andy Peaden, to bring stability as the organisation prepares to shed more than a quarter of its jobs – around 100 – over coming months.

Union representatives believe Sheffield Futures – officially a charity which receives the majority of its remaining £4.5m funding from city council and Government coffers – could have gone into administration without council intervention.

“Morale there is very, very fragile – these cuts have torn the guts out of the service, slashing all the things it is there to do,” said Unison branch secretary Jon Mordecai.

Sheffield Futures operates Connexions careers service, youth clubs and services for pregnant teenagers, children in care, young offenders, youngsters with no qualifications and young people with alcohol and drug problems.

Government plans to scrap central careers services and make schools ‘buy in’ independent careers advisers from next year will see one major source of funding largely disappear.

Mr Peaden said the council was determined to keep some form of careers service intact while Connexions was being run down. “Sheffield Futures is facing significant changes and for the last two weeks we have been drawing up plans to take up the reins through what will be a difficult period of transition,” he said.

“We believe Sheffield Futures has a future and is a sustainable organisation but we need a new business model that will target youth services to where they are needed most. The Government wants us to work more closely with the voluntary sector, such as churches and other groups, and we have a wide array of those in this city.”

The council also still wants to see Sheffield Futures working hard with teenagers without qualifications or training, as well as providing guidance during the crucial exam season.

Mr Peaden added: “We were given two days’ notice of the resignations – without our intervention the service would have been a rudderless ship. We didn’t want to see it go to the wall.”

Unison regional officer Chris Jenkinson said staff were now looking at far more redundancies than had been planned.

“People there are angry because they believe there has been no clear strategy for the future – and now they are paying for that with their jobs,” he added.