Blake singer warning cuts to Norfolk Music Service could impact on young people’s mental health

Humphrey Berney, member of classical vocal group Blake. Picture: Angela Sharpe

Humphrey Berney, member of classical vocal group Blake. Picture: Angela Sharpe - Credit: Archant © 2011

A chart-topping singer has warned that any quick fix cuts to the Norfolk Music Service would have serious impacts on children's mental health.

Humphrey Berney, who is one third of Brit-award winning band Blake, and lives in Bracon Ash with his two young daughters and wife, said: "It is very sad that generally when there are cuts to be made the first thing to be hammered is the arts. Everything is based on results. It is with great sadness that music is the first thing to be cut.

"That part of holistic education is so important and the way society is moving with children exposed to screens, computers and social media, the role of music and the arts has never been needed more."

Norfolk Music Service teaches one-to-one instrumental tuition at more than 270 schools as well as providing a variety of music ensembles for dozens of youngsters.

Norfolk County Council, which runs the service, is proposing to cut the number of tutors from 46 (34.6 full time equivalents) to 21, with the tutors who keep their jobs expected to teach multiple instruments.

Staff are now being consulted and the changes could come into force this September including a focus on group sessions.

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The council said the service has run at a "substantial" loss over the past two years and changes would include the cost of tuition increase from £34 per hour to £40 per hour.

But children in care would get free lessons and children eligible for free school meals would receive subsidised tuition.

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MORE: Petition launched to reverse Norfolk Music Service CutsMr Berney, 39, who grew up near Hockering, believed the full impact of social media and screens on young people's mental health would come out over the next decade.

"I understand the need to make cuts but it is quick fixes from the council," Mr Berney added. "But I think we will look back on society and regret that money was taken out."

The singer, who received a music scholarship at Gresham's School in Holt, said:

"Music is innate to everybody. It is essential to health and wellbeing."

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: "The council wants to change how the service operates so that more children can enjoy music tuition and music tutors are able to spend more time teaching and less time travelling."

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