Loss of Norwich Future project would hit community

The loss of a youth project which helps city youngsters excluded from mainstream education would have a considerable impact on the community, a Norfolk County Council-commissioned report said – just two years before it withdrew a vital funding contract.

Future Education has been left with a question mark over its long-term existence after Norfolk County Council withdrew a contract to provide an alternative academic education, and gave another vocational contract to a national provider.

Although the council has pledged to support current students through their last year, Future has been left with no time to find alternative funding which they say will also put their other projects at risk.

The Evening News yesterday launched a campaign calling for a contract to be reinstated for two years to give the project time to secure its long-term future.

A Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Future Projects, which was undertaken by the research and consultancy company ERS on behalf of the county council not only praised the work done by Future Education, but also looked into the benefits of Future Projects to the whole of the North Earlham, Larkman and Marlpit (NELM) area of Norwich.

Future Education was encouraged to register as a school in 2008 at great financial cost and effort.

The report said: 'Partner organisations are supportive of Future Projects' work. For Norfolk Children Services in particular, the Education Independent Inclusion Special School provides good value for money when compared to other specialist provision.

Most Read

'It is also an important resource for the local authority as it prevents them from having to send young people to out-of-county provision at considerable cost (in excess of �70,000 per placement) or establish bestoke packages of support.'

The report highlights the in-depth knowledge the project has of the NELM area.

'Whilst there are other community groups working with young people and disadvantaged adults across Norwich, Future Projects is the only community based group in the NELM area', it said.

'As such, were Future Projects to close, statutory providers would have to commission other organisations to deliver the same provision. Not only would this incur a financial cost but it is probable that other providers would not know the NELM area as well, or have the local knowledge that Future Projects have built up over the years.'

It also said that alternatives to Future Projects such as specialist out-of-county or independent school placements, show the Future Special School be considerably more cost effective.

'The implications of reducing the number of places available could be considerable, not only to Norfolk Children's Services financially, but importantly to the young people themselves.'

The report also includes praise from police for Future Projects as a whole.

'The police are in little doubt that the work of Future Projects is having a positive impact on the incidence of anti-social behaviour and youth crime in the neighbourhood.'

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children services said last night: 'We absolutely recognise the important role alternative education provision plays in reducing social exclusion – that is why we continue to commission this vital work across the county.

'All young people receiving alternative provision will continue to do so under the new arrangements, whether they stay in their current placement or move across to a new provider.

'We will make sure that they continue to have access to the education that best meets their particular needs. This includes the small proportion for which a classroom-based environment is the best option and we will make arrangements so that these young people can continue to study for academic qualifications, including looking at the role our own short-stay school can play in supporting them.

'That is why we have been trying to talk with Future Education for the past two weeks but they have been unable to meet with us. We want to talk to them about immediate plans for young people entering Year 11 as well as options they may wish to explore for the future. We have written to them again today to try to schedule a meeting and we really hope that this can go ahead.

'Our proposed provider is a charity that is committed to tackling social exclusion among young people and has a good track record of providing a high quality curriculum. Its bid scored the most highly in our tendering process because it proved it could provide good value for money and good results for young people across Norwich and Norfolk.'