DVD highlights fears of Norfolk’s young homeless over looming cuts

Some of Norfolk's most vulnerable young people will get to the heart of the matter today when they descend on County Hall to deliver a DVD in response to proposed cuts to funds that are used to support them.

The DVD has been produced by the residents of the North Walsham-based Benjamin Foundation's Aspire Centre at Great Yarmouth, which gives accommodation and support to troubled young people, but which could lose a chunk of its funding under the proposals.

Called 'The Big What?', it is the young people's response to the Big Conversation - Norfolk County Council's public consultation about possible cuts, which closes today.

The DVD includes poignant footage of Aspire Centre resident Stephen, 24, going up the driveway to Norwich Prison, where he was an inmate before he was helped by the Benjamin Foundation.

Its title was inspired by the reaction of the young people when they were asked to comment on the Big Conversation.

The council currently has a �40m budget for prevention work, but it could be cut by �18m over three years. The funding includes 'supporting people' funding of �16m, which helps to pay for the foundation's supported accommodation for young homeless people - including Aspire, Winston Court in North Walsham, and others in Fakenham and King's Lynn.

A spokesman for the charity said such 'drastic' cuts could result in the closure of 'vital' services for 18-24-year-olds.

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Matt Garrod, head of operations for housing and homelessness, said: 'The name for the DVD came about because that was exactly the response of our residents at the Aspire Centre when we mentioned the Big Conversation.

'They had no idea that a consultation was taking place and they don't believe the government cares what they think.

'Our young residents came up with the idea of a DVD to accompany our written response to the Big Conversation because it allowed them to put forward their opinions and personal stories in their own words.'

Mr Garrod said the young people were also submitting a 'Big What Scrapbook', including quotes from young people, poems and artwork about their views of the services they received.

He said: 'While there is, of course, a cost involved with delivering prevention services, we believe it's vital to offer help to people at the earliest possible stage.'

Benjamin Foundation founder and chief executive Richard Draper said: 'More than 17,000 vulnerable people in Norfolk receive help via the supporting people budget.

'A funding cut of 25pc, let alone the 40pc that has been mentioned, would see invaluable services lost for good.'

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult and community services at the council, said: 'Charged with making savings on the scale required of us, we've been faced with some really hard choices and I understand it's been a difficult and uncertain time for the people who use the services that may be affected by our proposals, including these young people.

'We do have to make big changes, reduce the size of the council and prioritise our services but exactly how we do this has yet to be decided.

'The consultation remains open until Monday and getting the views of the people of Norfolk and understanding their priorities is an essential part of this whole process.'