Nottingham charity issues concerning warning as referrals quadruple since council cuts

Marcellus Baz, founder and CEO of Switch Up, headshot with black cap and branded Switch Up jacket, stood next to spiky metal fencing with straight face
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

A charity in Nottingham that works to keep vulnerable children off the streets has seen a four-fold 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 deal with demand.

Approximately 60 referrals are currently outstanding and there are a further 30 children to 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 length of time.

Mr Baz said: "The referrals are coming in thick and fast and we can't get to them. It's really taking a toll on all of us who work here. If these young people and their families are not supported, we could end up in a situation where instead they are 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 who the council have not been able to provide for themselves.

Referrals come from a variety of authorities including youth offending services, the police and exclusion units and children are usually identified as some of the most vulnerable and at risk in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. As well as the council, Switch Up also works with other similar charities and partners.

But they are also stretched too - meaning Switch Up can't pass cases on when they don't have capacity to deal with them themselves. Referrals have "gone through the roof," says Mr Baz, who started the charity after turning away from a life of crime himself.

He said: "I'm having sleepless nights. I'm really struggling with my own emotions. I set up Switch Up to help those who are most in need. It's very, very important that I provide a service for those who really need it. I'm really, really concerned for what could happen next."

Mr Baz revealed that existing staff are having to work longer hours to counter the backlog. He also explained that some of his staff members have sought jobs elsewhere for increased pay, due to the cost of living crisis meaning the charity cannot afford to pay employees what they are asking for.

He said: "Since the council's services have been pulled back or stopped, the gap has completely widened. It's really impacting us. It's difficult enough for front-line organisations like ours to continue to support the existing cohorts of people we work with, never mind having to scale and work with more.

"As a collective in Nottingham, we need to be proactive rather than reactive and waiting for things to happen. Desperate young people who need some support and are not getting that are going from being vulnerable to being isolated, to self-harm and suicide, to putting themselves in dangerous situations.

"Crime rates could go up. It might even result in murders and will cost the taxpayer millions and millions of pounds. Something needs to be done quickly."

Nottingham City Council was contacted for comment.