Volunteers ‘kicked in the teeth’


- Credit: Archant

A DECISION to withdraw funding vital to the survival of new youth networks in North Somerset has been branded ‘a kick in the teeth’ for the volunteers dedicating their time to the cause.

The Times can reveal North Somerset Council will no longer provide a £250,000 pot of cash to help bolster the efforts of commissioning networks created by communities in towns and villages across the district after the authority cut its general youth work budget last year.

Since April, volunteers have been working to establish their organisations and source funding. However, this could all go to waste as some could be forced to fold following the council’s decision to take away the cash, which could have been given out in the autumn.

It would have been a continuation of a positive activities innovation fund, which was set up to enable the groups to keep activities running for youngsters in the short-term and has already seen £290,000 divided between the 11 North Somerset networks.

The decision to withdraw it was announced at a recent meeting of the council’s Children and Young People’s Services (CYPS) Policy and Scrutiny Panel and its youth service working group held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

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Working group member Cllr Donald Davies said: “Some of the networks are still very much in the development stage.

“The risk of taking away the money is that young people might end up with nothing to do.

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“There is then the potential for resulting antisocial behaviour and the council having to pay for any youngsters who end up in custody or care.

“It is a case of investing to save. There is no way any of the networks will be self sufficient by September.

“What incentive will there be for the volunteers to continue? It is a kick in the teeth for all the effort people have put in.”

Cllr Davies is ward member for Pill, where he is involved with the Pill and District Young People’s Partnership.

Thanks to the fact the village has its own youth club facility, the partnership has been successful in continuing youth work, with more than 30 attending each of the four evening sessions put on every week, but Cllr Davies fears this will now be at risk.

He added: “The chances are it will either mean shutting down the network completely or running some kind of voluntary, skeleton service.”

The council’s executive member for CYPS, Jeremy Blatchford, said: “This was going to be an emergency fund which would have been available if needed.

“The programme has gone a lot better than we expected so we don’t think there is likely to be a need to draw the money out as additional funding.

“I don’t think people realise how desperately squeezed we are.

“Some town and parish councils have also stepped up to the mark to help with youth funding.”

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