Youth centre hours slashed

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YOUTH CENTRE opening hours are to be slashed to just one night a week, prompting fears it could lead to bored youngsters causing trouble.

YOUTH CENTRE opening hours are to be slashed to just one night a week, prompting fears it could lead to bored youngsters causing trouble.

Among the worst hit will be Spalding, where the centre currently operates four nights a week, and Holbeach, where youngsters have the chance to take part in a variety of activities three nights a week.

The cuts, which have also resulted in the loss of almost 40 full-time equivalent jobs, are the latest by Lincolnshire County Council to help meet a £125m black hole in its budget.

It is believed that all of South Holland’s youth workers have been made redundant, with just one person to be employed to provide the service one night a week at Spalding and Holbeach, as well as provide support to youth clubs provided one night a week by volunteers in Donington and Moulton Chapel.

But the decision has led to concerns by parents, police and community leaders that the consequences could include an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour as youngsters struggle to find something else to do and start hanging around the streets.

Insp Paul Timmins, of Spalding Police, said: “I am very concerned to hear that youth centres are to cut their hours because it is important that something is provided to keep young people interested and out of bother.

“With the riots in London recently, it is clear that there needs to be support for young people in the community and the youth centres do a lot of positive things with youngsters in the evenings and school holidays.”

Parents were told of youth worker Steve Stephens’ redundancy and the reduction in opening hours at Spalding Youth Centre in a letter last week.

Mark Dicker’s disabled 12-year-old son had recently started attending, and he said: “Shouldn’t we be helping our children socialise in organised groups and clubs like this and not cutting these facilities so they just hang around the streets?

“I just feel that these days, particularly in light of the riots, it is not a good thing to be reducing kids’ activities.”

And Paula Leverton, whose special needs son James has been attending two or three nights a week for many years, said: “I can’t understand them cutting back this service as the staff are amazing and they do a lot of things with the young people which keeps them out of trouble and stops them getting into mischief.

“We are absolutely gutted.”

It is believed the changes will come into force in September, with Spalding youth centre opening on Wednesdays and Holbeach on Fridays.