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Nottingham charity issues warning over quadrupling referrals since council cuts

Nottingham charity issues warning over quadrupling referrals since council cuts

A Nottingham charity that works to keep vulnerable children off the streets has seen a fourfold increase in referrals since Nottingham City Council cut its funding for youth services in April. Switch Up, the brainchild of CEO Marcellus Baz, is now dealing with a growing backlog of cases as it struggles to cope with demand.

Approximately 60 referrals are currently pending and there are a further 30 children for whom funding has been agreed, but limited capacity means they have not yet been allocated to a programme. Previous referrals came in at a rate of around four per week, but the charity is now regularly seeing around 16 referrals in the same time period.




Mr Baz said: “Referrals are coming in thick and fast and we can’t get through to them. It’s really affecting all of us who work here. If these young people and their families aren’t supported, we could end up in a situation where they are instead radicalised, end up in gangs, carry knives and struggle with their mental health.”

In December, as part of its proposals to save money after effectively declaring bankruptcy, Nottingham City Council announced plans to reduce its youth services and funding for community centres. Switch Up provides services such as counselling and mentoring to the most vulnerable children across the county – often those the council has been unable to provide for itself.

Referrals come from a range of authorities, including youth offending services, the police and exclusion units, and the children are generally identified as some of the most vulnerable and at risk in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. In addition to the council, Switch Up also works with other charities and like-minded partners.

But they are also stretched thin – meaning Switch Up cannot pass on cases when they do not have the capacity to deal with them themselves. Referrals have “skyrocketed”, says Mr Baz, who started the charity after turning away from a life of crime.

He said: “I’m having sleepless nights. I’m really struggling with my own emotions. I set up Switch Up to help those who need it most. It’s really, really important that I provide a service to those who really need it. I’m really, really worried about what might happen next.”

Mr Baz also revealed that some of his staff have sought employment elsewhere and that existing employees are having to work longer hours to make up for the backlog.