Council defends appointment of youth ‘voice’

THE decision by Scottish Borders Council to hire a youth voice co-ordinator has been vigorously defended by the local authority.

The post – which carries an annual salary of up to £29,250 – has been advertised by SBC to lead its new unit Scottish Borders Youth Voice, aimed at enabling young people’s views to be heard.

However, the role has been criticised by lobby groups and Borders MSP John Lamont, who described the job as “trendy nonsense” and “a complete waste of money”.

They argued the funding for the post would be better spent on services which had faced cuts in the current financial year.

But an SBC spokeswoman replied: “We refute that the establishment of a more efficient process in which to engage with children and young people is either ‘trendy nonsense’ or ‘a complete waste of money’.

“Scottish Borders Council, as an active partner in local community planning structures, has been committed to children and young people’s active participation in service planning and delivery for some years.

“This is currently being taken forward through the recently endorsed Involved strategy document which sets out how the council and others will engage with children and young people.”

The council says the strategy will create opportunities for children and young people to get involved in decision making which affect their lives.

The spokeswoman continued: “The council and its partners have recently reviewed the systems that have been in place for some time to support such engagement and have developed a new streamlined structure.

“This in effect replaces five locally-based youth participation workers, totalling 50 hours per week, with one 25-hour per week post with some administrative support.

“We are currently in the process of recruiting to this post, thus establishing a streamlined and more efficient service.

“Young people, particularly the most vulnerable, are often ignored in local planning and this relatively modest programme seeks to address this issue.

“We are sure members of the Borders public appreciate the crucial role these projects play locally and nationally in the development of our young people.

“The new co-ordinator will play an important part in supporting these initiatives, and giving young people a voice in the council decision making.”

But Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont said the creation of the post was evidence that SBC was not spending money in the right places.

He told us: “When budgets in education are having to be stretched further and further, many people will consider the decision to hire a youth voice co-ordinator as a complete waste of money.

“We must ensure the best possible future for our children and this can be better achieved by hiring more teachers and improving facilities rather than hiring for frivolous roles such as this.” His comments were echoed by Nick Seaton of the Campaign For Real Education, who added: “Taxpayers will be incensed that their money is being wasted on trendy nonsense like this while seriously-needed services are being cut.”

The job description for the co-ordinator post reads: “You will work as part of a small staff team to lead, design and deliver the aims of this new unit Scottish Borders Voice which incorporates Youth Chex and members of the Scottish Youth Parliament.”