Family’s upset over group’s closure

THE family of an autistic Yatton teenager fear he will be left isolated when a specialist group he attends is closed.

As part of North Somerset Council’s planned cuts to its youth services, a group working with more than 120 people with learning difficulties will fold.

Sam Nicklen, aged 15, uses the Transitions group to meet other teenagers with learning difficulties and also as a chance to express himself in a manner he normally cannot.

His mother, Anne Nicklen, said: “He goes once a month on trips and does activities with the group during the school holidays. He has somewhere he can go where I know he will be safe.

“There are people there who know how to handle it and where he won’t be stared at for being different. He hasn’t got a peer group as such so he needs a group like this.”

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Mrs Nicklen believes Sam will suffer greatly if the group closes, which looks likely in the coming weeks with nearly �900,000 set to be slashed from North Somerset’s youth services budget.

More than 120 people from around the district currently use Weston-based Transitions, which meets weekly and organises monthly events such as trips to the woods and barbecues.

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Group organiser Suzanne Elliot, who is a member of Unite trade union, said the council’s decision was ‘short-sighted and foolhardy’.

She said: “The membership is going up so it’s still a growing project and therefore devastating for these people affected.

“Where do councillors expect these people to go after March?”

A council spokesman said: “The Transitions group was set up with money from the previous Government.

“Funding lasted for three years to March 2011 but we managed to find the funding to be able to extend it for a further year.

“The group was targeted at 16 to 18-year-olds initially, so when the funding ceased these young people would be adults. It has proved very popular but the funding is no longer available to sustain this project.”

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