Services for disabled teens under threat

Salisbury Journal: Nicole Annetts with father Mark. DC4628P1 Nicole Annetts with father Mark. DC4628P1

AS the Journal’s Save Our Services campaign to protect vital organisations from funding cuts gathers support, fears have been raised for the future of another project that helps some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

The Bridging Project gives disabled young people the chance to socialise with other teenagers at community venues across south Wiltshire.

But the project has an uncertain future as Wiltshire Council looks to cut £500,000 from its Youth Services budget, making 140 youth workers redundant.

Sian Darch, 23, pictured, has attended the Wilton Bridging Project since she was a teenager and now volunteers.

“It is excellent, we play pool, use the computers and make new friends,” she said.

“But it is more than a building, the youth workers give us amazing support and it won’t be the same if they lose their jobs.

“ W e don’t want it to move somewhere else, we don’t like change, we just want the council to realise how important this is to us.”

Nicole Annetts, 16, has the genetic condition fragile X syndrome which affects her speech and ability to adapt to change.

Since she started going to the Bridging Project’s group on Wilton Road each Thursday, she has made new friends and enjoyed greater independence.

“Lots of young people with special needs are either at school or home with their families and don’t get the social opportunities other teenagers enjoy,” said her father Mark.

“That is why this is so important.

“The youth workers make this a place of positivity and hope. To make them redundant or disperse them would be a huge waste of skill and another let down for the people of Wiltshire.

“If the council was to close it the bottom would fall out of our world again.

“How many more assets will be lost?”

The questions about the future of the Bridging Project follow the decision to close Hillcote respite care home on Manor Road, £10,000 funding cuts for special needs nursery The John McNeill Opportunity Centre, plans to shut the residential part of the Douglas Arter Centre for disabled adults and Wiltshire Council’s proposal to shut 24 youth centres across the county.

Last week the Journal launched the Save our Services Campaign to highlight these funding cuts and we have been inundated with letters, emails and stories from people who describe these services as a “lifeline” and want to join the campaign to save them.

Wiltshire Council says a youth services consultation is underway and no final decisions have been made.

It is urging young people to get involved with the consultation at sparksite.co.uk.

  • Turn to pages 4-5 to see how the Journal's SOS campaign is leading the fight against funding cuts.

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