Fears over youth centres

First published in News

A REVIEW of youth services under way in Wiltshire could see the closure of some youth centres – and help to save £500,000 a year.

Tidworth and Ludgershall’s centres are two of 24 across the county under the microscope as part of a 10-week public consultation involving schools, young people’s groups, voluntary organisations and local communities.

Four options are being considered but unions say that 140 jobs are at risk and suggest that by the end of the summer some centres could be boarded up, with children left with nowhere to go.

The consultation asks for opinions on four options.

The council’s preferred option is to develop a community- led approach which will ‘empower communities via community area boards, with funding from the council, to develop and make available positive leisuretime youth activities within their local area’.

County Hall says that a key aim is to target funding and resources more effectively and to continue to protect services for vulnerable young people.

Services could tie in with the emerging campus projects which aim to see all council services concentrated in one building in each community area – potentially saving millions.

The council adds that currently a relatively low percentage of young people aged 13-19 use the council’s youth activities.

Laura Mayes, Cabinet member for children’s services, said it is vital that activities for young people are modern and reflect their needs.

She said: “The needs of the youth of today are very different from the provision we put in place 10 years ago and the future activities for young people needs to move with the times.

“We need to reach more young people while ensuring our service is cost-effective.

“The continuing challenging financial climate is clearly a significant factor, but we believe the development of community campuses is an excellent opportunity to target youth activities right in the heart of the communities they serve.”

Unions are unimpressed, though.

A Unite spokesman said: “As well as providing young people with a safe place to go and meet their friends and learn new skills, youth workers are providing lots of support to individual young people who have a range of challenges in their lives.

“The council has no idea about the worry and anger it is causing.”

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