More concern at youth centre cuts

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YOUTH leaders in South Holland have raised concerns at cuts to young people’s services – and pleaded with adults not to brand them all troublemakers.

Last week we revealed opening hours will be slashed to just one night a week at our youth centres, massively reducing the operations at Spalding, which runs four nights a week, and Holbeach, which runs for three.

South Holland Youth Council fears the cuts, part of Lincolnshire County Council’s bid to plug its £125m funding black hole, will have a big impact on our children.

Councillors have said they hope “Big Society” projects will fill the gaps left by council cuts, but the youth council fears there will not be enough money left to support anyone who wants to do just that.

Youth council spokesman Ciaran Constable said: “The SHYC is supportive of the Big Society idea in that it gets more people involved in the local community but these sweeping cuts and changes have not left in place the necessary support that voluntary or community groups need to run youth centres or young people’s activities.

“There are skills, experience and expertise in the youth service, that are valued by young people, which will end up being wasted.

“Doing things differently to make savings rather than making cuts would have been preferable, retaining the skills within the youth service and maintaining provision.”

Last week Spalding Police inspector Paul Timmins said he feared the youth centre cuts may pave the way for an increase in anti-social behaviour if youngsters have litte to do.

The youth council says it is worried that young people are being labelled as troublemakers, when only a minority are causing trouble.

Ciaran added: “Sensationalising the cuts and pointing the finger at young people, expecting them to cause trouble because of the lack of youth centres by the press has not been helpful – it reinforces that stereotype.

“Young people want and need a way of spending their free time and need organisations, centres, youth groups to facilitate that.

“Coupled with the changes in Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and increases in university fees, young people are systematically feeling the brunt of spending cuts. We feel they are being targeted because they are too young to vote.”

This week the county council moved to clarify that not all of its youth workers wil be made redundant as part of the cuts.

Many will instead have new Youth and Community Development and Targeted Youth Support Assistant roles, working with South Holland youngsters.

A spokesman said: “Although the county council’s children’s services will be delivering fewer nights’ provision from the youth centres (but committed to at least one evening delivery per week in youth centres) in Spalding and Holbeach, we will have a team working with the community and partners in order that provision can be delivered by other providers and volunteers.”