Campaigning teen's plea to save youth club

Campaigning teen's plea to save youth club

Heather McCarnun. DC5422P1

The Grove - Bass Connection group facing closure. DC5422P5

First published in News
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A TEENAGE carer who was thrown a lifeline by a Salisbury youth club after years of being bullied has spoken of her devastation that it is closing.

Now she is campaigning against cuts to services for young people in the county.

Wiltshire Council wants to save £110,000 this year by closing youth clubs and introducing a new ‘community - led’ system from October.

But Heather McCarnun, 16, from Old Sarum, who has Asperger’s syndrome, says the welcome and empathy she received from her youth club stopped her feeling lonely.

Now the service is set to close on August 14.

Heather joined Grove – Bass Connection in Salisbury and finally felt accepted after being bullied throughout her time at school.

At the time she joined the youth club Heather cared for her mother Jessica, who has a nerve damage condition called occipital neuralgia, and her brother, Rowan, who is brain damaged, and says life was difficult enough without the little support she got from people outside her family.

Her mother has since had an operation and now works full-time.

She said: “It gives teenagers and young people a sense of belonging and without that they end up standing in the parks and are considered a nuisance. That’s not what we want for society.

“The first day I was at Grove they sat me down and they wanted to know about me. One thing they showed was sympathy, they completely understood.”

She said her earliest memory of school was being bullied, and when she attended young carers’ groups and youth clubs in the Midlands she was also forced out by bullies.

When she moved to Wiltshire two-and-a-halfyears ago, she found solace in a young carers’ group until its funding was cut by the council.

She later joined Grove, based at Grosvenor House, when her mother’s condition improved following the operation.

She said: “When I came to Bass Connection I had social issues and my autism made socialising difficult but now things are improving from the help of the youth workers there.

“We hang out and get to talk and the people there are happy, it’s an amazing thing. And if you have a problem you can sit in the office and have a chat.”

Heather has written to the council to voice her concerns and she is now hoping to collect case studies of other young people affected by the cuts to youth services in the county.

She wants to present a 'personal petition' to Wiltshire Council, which doesn't involve signatures but letters and personal stories about why the service is needed.

To contact Heather, email hmccarnun@yahoo.com.

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