Bristol City Council have voted in favour of approving plans to reduce funding for their youth services from £4.5m to £3.2m, and will now act on the changes to create new contracts for the charities and organisations that provide youth services across the city.
The council say their new model aims to “retain elements that are considered positive in the current contract, such as the online provision, but proposes some significant changes to tackle the elements that have not worked as well”.
The youth service contract will be split into three parts, which the council say is an attempt to ensure funds are targeted towards the young people who need them most, with work concentrated in particular areas of the city.
The current online youth services were taken over by a team at Watershed in 2014, who launched Rife Magazine as an innovative outlet for the voices of young people.
A digital magazine and online platform aimed at 13- to 19-year-olds, the content on Rife Magazine is created by and for young people in Bristol. Topics vary from honest first-person pieces about interracial relationships and losing a parent, to making films with a smartphone and writing a good CV.
More than 800 young people from across Bristol have created content for the site and seen their work published and shared online – many for the very first time.
In addition, outreach work has physically engaged more than 8,000 young people from a diverse range of backgrounds, through collaborations with many Bristol charities and youth providers.
Rife alumni have also gone out to secure jobs with media organisations including the Guardian, BBC Radio 1 Extra, Crack and Bristol24/7 – where our Deputy Editor and Music Editor are both former Rifers.
In a statement, Watershed said that the council’s decision will not allow them to continue Rife in its current format without alternative funding: “The majority of our effort is directed to Rife Magazine, unfortunately the proposal is to focus on the provision of the listing and sign-posting services and this effectively removes funding for youth-led digital content creation.”
Their statement continues: “We will take this opportunity to re-imagine the Rife model to leverage the partnerships and fundraising successes we have undertaken to date.
“We will ensure Rife continues to flourish and meet its objectives of inclusion, championing the voices of young people, and developing their skills for future employment.”
At the cabinet meeting on Thursday, councillor Helen Godwin (Southmead, Labour) said as she introduced the motion: “I am proud that we are continuing to fund youth services at a time of ongoing Central Government cuts.
“This reduction does mean that we must ensure the funds are targeted towards the young people who need them most: young people who are NEET and need support to get into education, employment or training.
“We appreciate the work of organisations across the city, all of whom are improving the lives of young people.
Mayor Marvin Rees commented: “We have a commitment to offer support and create a diversity of services, and we are building resilience to avoid future reliance on the council. We are working to improve the life chances of all young people, no matter where they live in Bristol.”
Clare Reddington, creative director of Watershed, said: “We understand the budgetary pressures that Bristol City Council faces but feel that, having worked with Bristol’s young people to create Rife, which has quickly become a national exemplar, we must seek to secure its future with and for our young people. Our position is one of determination, rather than defeat.”
Nikesh Shukla, editor of Rife Magazine, added: “Rife shows the value of only working on youth projects that are co-produced with young people.
“The achievements we’ve had over the years – from one of our alumni going on to be the Guardian’s Facebook Live producer to another working up the confidence to do a degree, to another taking the leap to be a freelance artist – each individual journey has been helped by offering the freedom to develop and the nurturing of talent.”
Anyone interested in supporting Rife Magazine and the ongoing fundraising campaign should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.