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Anger over youth centre plans
YOUNG people and their parents have reacted angrily to Wiltshire Council’s proposal to close youth centres across the county.
The council is considering shutting 24 youth centres and making 140 youth workers redundant as it looks to save £500,000.
Petitions and online campaigns protesting against the closures have been set up and teenagers have been quick to condemn the cuts.
Luke Clifford, 16, who presents a programme on youth radio station Radio Sparksite said: “The point of youth centres is to build up trust and confidence and to help young people. Have councillors ever visited a youth centre and seen how brilliantly the staff work with young people to bring out the best in them?
“Are they going to turn us away so we just have to hang out on the streets?”
Concerns have been raised about the future of the Bass Connection music service which is run from ageing Grosvenor House in Churchfields Road, Salisbury.
It is due to move to the new community campus being built at Five Rivers Leisure Centre where there will be state-of-the art recording facilities and equipment.
But young people want reassurance there will be enough qualified youth workers employed at Bass Connection’s new home.
“What’s the point of having a fantastic new building with no youth workers?” asked Luke.
“One idea is to have volunteers. Why are the Government and local authorities always putting pressure on working people to do the work of specialist professionals?”
An online petition in support of Wiltshire’s youth centres and youth workers set up by Salisbury dad Glynn Root, 34, was signed by 200 people in just four hours and other Facebook campaigns have also received widespread support.
Public sector union Unite, which represents many of the 140 youth workers who could lose their jobs, has also condemned the plans, saying youth centres could become boarded up by the summer with nowhere for young people to go.
Wiltshire Council has released more information about its plans this week.
They are considering four options – retaining in house provision on a drastically reduced basis, outsourcing youth services, encouraging staff to form a public service mutual company or allowing individual area boards to allocate funding for youth services in their specific areas.
The report states: “Currently around eight per cent of the 13 to 19 (year old) population access the council’s open access youth service. The current service needs to be reviewed to ensure provision responds to the modern lives of young people, is shaped by their views and aligns to the council’s new community campus model.”
The council says that over the last 10 years young people’s lives have changed rapidly due to social networking, expansion of home entertainment and more commercially available activities.
It says it needs to focus on the most vulnerable young people and save £500,000 from the service’s £1.3m annual budget at the same time.
A consultation started on Friday and runs until April.
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