The application for £1,000 was refused by members at a full council meeting on Monday night (June 19).
Councillors were split with six voting for refusal, three against and three abstaining. They were told the service would continue at UCTC without the grant.
Application missed deadline
The nub of the argument to refuse was that the application was “out of time”.
UCTC had not applied at the proper time for a grant and received no allocation when the budget for community grants was set for 2017/18. The recommended figures were set in September last year.
The young people’s counselling service supports students at the college, dealing with a variety of mental health conditions or when circumstances affect their day-to-day confidence and resilience.
Mental health services
Since September 2016, the service has supported 50 students and when appropriate the service has received the support of the school safeguarding team, pastoral year heads and CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services).
The report to councillors continued:
“Referrals to the service can be made by staff or by the students themselves, and the service provides a weekly lunchtime drop-in, should students wish to have an initial conversation.
“The service has an on-going waiting list of more than 20 students, showing that there is a demand for the service.
“The service has supported 19 males and 31 females since September across year groups (years 8 – year 13).
“The service has supported students with a range of concerns, including problematic relationships, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress, anger management, depression, eating disorders, bereavement and self- esteem after bullying.”
Councillors were told students’ experiences of the service were positive.
All students are invited to give feedback on their experience of the service, and the feedback received has always demonstrated that the support provided is of value.
Included in the town council papers for councillors to discuss were the following comments:
“It helped me feel like I don’t have to bottle up my feelings and that I don’t have to suffer in silence.’
“Counselling has been incredibly helpful. The sessions have really helped me make sense of how I’ve been feeling and linking it back to traumatic past experiences. It has made everyday life, particularly college, much more manageable.”
“The counsellor is very approachable, caring, sincere and professional.”
The service was given grants of £1,000 in each of the financial years: 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15 and £1,500 in 2015/16.
The report to councillors said a change in staff at UCTC in the past 12 months had meant that no application was made for the current financial year.
Town councillors’ discussions
During the debate, there were a number of contributions from councillors, some arguing that a grant should be made – and then a line drawn to any more requests from other organisations – while others said an exception to the normal policy should be made.
Uckfield Town Mayor, Cllr Louise Eastwood, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said: “I would be more than happy to go back to the college and reiterate that there is a grants scheme which they can apply for and ask the community college to continue to use it.”
During the discussion, the Mayor said the £1,000 requested was a contribution and said the service had survived the last two years when no grants had been asked for.
Cllr Jackie Love, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said it was important for the college to look after every single child, saying she knew of examples where she felt that had not happened.
Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood, said in the past the council had fought tooth and nail to not make awards between grant meetings. It meant there was no incentive for organisations to meet the application deadline.
‘Cannot be the bank of…’
Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Uckfield Central, said: “We need to set a precedent. We can’t just keep giving money. We do have a budget.
“They have budgets which they have to stick to. We can’t keep being the ‘bank of …’
“We do need to stop it somewhere. People may say it is only a thousand pounds but if you have several people coming and asking only for £1,000 that starts being a lot of money.
She also expressed concerns about how the counselling service worked.
Difficult to turn down
Cllr Donna French, Trust Independent, Uckfield North, said it would be difficult to turn down the application.
“We should allow this grant and reiterate how important it is to follow the correct procedure in future years,” she said.
Cllr French added a council release could be used to inform organisations and groups that exceptions could not kept being made.
Daniel Manvell, a youth member of the town council, supported making an exception and issuing a press release to make the position clear.
Mental health a big issue
He pointed to the number of students helped and said mental health funding was going down.
“Mental health is one of the biggest issues young people are facing at the moment,” he said.
Cllr Paul Meakin, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield, said in the last year the council had found a number of “exceptions” and given money and residents might find it very “hard-hearted” if this was turned down.
Hard to say no
He felt that this year the council had not worried too much about setting precedents.
“I do sympathise that perhaps the quality of service they may have provided in the past may not have been the best, but at least it is some service,” he said.
“I just find it hard to say no. How can we say that this is the no and that this is the line in the sand?
Cllr Meakin concluded that the council had supported a bus service, events in the town and other organisations and felt an exception should be made for this counselling scheme.
Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, Uckfield North, said he was sympathetic to the request but felt the council should stick to its guidelines it has for the grants scheme.
In the current financial year, the council made a number of grants. See this UckfieldNews.com story to find out who got what.
How to apply for grants for the financial year 2018/19 [town council website]
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