IT’S yet another bombshell for towns and villages across West Sussex where communities are struggling to provide for their young people.
But West Sussex County Council looks set to axe 119 members of its youth service staff – the equivalent of 50 full-timers – and now the funding and running of rural youth clubs for ordinary youngsters falls squarely on the shoulders of volunteers in the community.
It will save the county council another £1.65m, but it puts more pressure on communities across the county.
In a world where young people are blamed for every kind of antisocial behaviour from excess drinking and drugs to vandalism, communities are keen to provide more for their youngsters, not less.
They point out many of them are marooned without public transport and their young people don’t have access to city sports centres, cinemas and other entertainment.
Colin Hughes, who has been involved with the youth service in the Midhurst area for 45 years, said: “The youth service was set up to meet these identified needs because there was a growing number of young people hanging about with nothing to do, which brought consequences for the community at large.
“These reasons are still relevant, but the authorities seem to think we can do without the service.”
Certainly since 2010 there has been an on-going fundamental review in which £2m was saved.
The latest proposals are calculated to cut another £1.65m off the youth service budget.
But the cuts are set to take ordinary youngsters from ordinary homes off the radar, to concentrate on ‘intervention services’ to those the YSDS deems to be most ‘in need, on the edge of statutory intervention or are ‘Looked After by the Authority’.
MIDHURST MUST RAISE FUNDS FOR ITS NEW CENTRE
Young people in Midhurst have been lucky in getting a brand-new £900,000 youth centre built by West Sussex County Council, next to the new Midhurst Rother College buildings.
It replaces the wooden hut which was past its sell-by date when Colin Hughes arrived in Midhurst in 1968, employed by the county council’s youth service.
His first job was to design and develop new youth facilities, but there was ever enough money.
He saw the opportunity in 2010, when work began on the new school, to raise funds for a youth centre from the sale of the county council-owned tennis courts no longer required by the school and the site of the current hut.
The new youth club, a dream come true for Mr Hughes, opened earlier this year.
But it is a case of volunteers stepping up the mark to pay for the running of the centre and staff to operate it.
The new trust is currently looking for volunteers to help run the new facility as well as groups which want to hire space when it is not being used by the nursery class or the young people.
Mr Hughes said the trust would be looking to raise around £30,000 every year to cover the running costs of the building and to pay some part-time leaders and administration staff.
“We are hoping to find about a third of this from letting space and then about 20 per cent from income generated – subscriptions from the young people. After that we will be looking for donations and grants from local authorities.”
But he said raising funding was becoming increasingly difficult.
“Everyone in the community is having to raise money for services which now have to be provided voluntarily, from young people to elderly people’s day services.
“We are all going to the same organisations to ask for funds and we are all after the same pot of money.”
PETWORTH ALSO LOOKING FOR FUNDING
The Sylvia Beaufoy Youth Centre at Petworth is facing the same problems.
As early as last February, chairman of the management committee Clive Fish warned Petworth town councillors that without support from them and help from other organisations in the community, the future of the centre was in doubt.
The warning came after West Sussex County Council’s decision to axe its funding which totalled some £20,00 a year.
The bombshell was dropped at the start of last year when Mr Fish and his management team were told they would lose their staff, a full-time leader and two part-timers as well as funding to meet the day-to-day running costs.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” Mr Fish told town councillors. “As a centre we have been very lucky in having brilliant leaders.
“Now we are told there will be no financial support although they will continue to give advisory support – but finance is the lifeblood.
“Without money we cannot run and the future of the centre is threatened.”
He said to operate effectively in the future, the management team needed three workers for each session as well as funding for building maintenance.
Since then Midhurst businessman Roger Morgan-Grenville, managing director of Dexam International, has got the ball rolling by donating £5,000 to the centre from his company’s charitable trust fund.
He hopes others will follow suit to preserve the future of the Petworth youth club and says his company is committed to making more donations in the next few years.
ROGATE LOOKS AFTER ITS OWN YOUNG PEOPLE
Villages across the county are also struggling to keep rural youth clubs going.
At Rogate, villagers relaunched their youth club in 2009 after a community effort which saw the 40-year-old club behind the village hall given a major facelift.
Funding was gained through a youth opportunities grant from the county council to redecorate and buy new equipment. But now it is up to the community to keep the club going.
Rogate Parish Council pays the cost of a youth club leader who oversees the opening of the club every Thursday for two sessions.
Ann Arnold, who runs the village shop, was one of the team behind the refurbishment of the club and is on the committee.
She said: “I think the cutting of funds is a travesty.
“Young people in this village have very little to do and nothing to keep them off the street and it’s down to the village to raise the funds to keep the club going.”
After parish council funding for the youth leader, the club holds frequent fundraising events to pay for costs such as electricity and putting on events.