Village rallies to oppose youth service cuts
14:37 26 February 2014
Braunton families urge people to sign petition opposing county council’s youth service proposals.
YOUNG people and their parents Braunton have been rallying against proposed cuts to the area’s youth service.
The Yard is just one of 15 youth centres across North Devon and Torridge which could be threatened by Devon County Council’s spending cuts.
Devastated parents say the youth club in the Caen Car Park has been an integral part of village life for decades and are urging people to sign a petition to oppose the cuts.
Mum-of-two Katie Major said around 250 in the village had already put their name to paper, but feared the consultation was merely a ‘box ticking exercise’.
She said if the youth club was to close as a result of funding cuts, the impact for the local community would be ‘disastrous’.
“Braunton’s youth club has been a part of village life for decades. It is open three nights per week and is regularly attended by 35 – 40 young people each night.
“It is run by professional, experienced youth workers who have built up a reputation with our young people, of being firm but fair.
“The club provides a safe, healthy environment for young people to socialise with one another.
“They provide social education including talks on subjects that young people may not feel able to discuss at home or at school.”
Mrs Major asked people to be ‘open minded’ about the proposed cuts.
“Even if you don’t have children, or your children have grown up, the young people of Braunton need somewhere to socialise – if it’s not in the youth club then it may be at the end of your road.”
Son Sam, 13, said: “We feel really safe here; it’s somewhere to go and meet friends. We can play table tennis, pool, make food and take part in activities.”
Another mum Tracy Day, 42, said she fondly remembered the Monday night discos at the club some 30 years ago.
“It was the only thing we had to do,” she said.
“My children are aged 10 and six but it’d be nice to think that the youth club is still here for them in years to come.”
Mrs Major questioned whether the community could provide a comparable service.
She said: “The council is asking communities to run their own youth clubs with volunteers but at the moment those clubs are run by professional qualified people,” she said.
“This is about more than finding kids somewhere to hang around. The youth club provides valuable education and youth workers are always on hand to offer advice on issues such as healthy relationships, sex and drugs.
“They are able to talk to young people before they start on the slippery slope – community volunteers just aren’t qualified to do that.
“Yes, we will be able to open a room and let kids hang out but will we be able to offer the quality they have at the moment?
“We are constantly moaning about children saying that they have no respect but how can we expect them to respect adults when we are taking everything away from them?”
Subject to a consultation that ends on April 27, the county council is looking to slash £1.7million from the £3.7million-a-year youth service for 13-19-year-olds. It could mean 60 of 114 youth service jobs will go.
North Devon MP Nick Harvey said he was ‘very concerned’ about the threat to the service.
He said: “I understand Devon’s financial predicament and sympathise. But while there are some things which they can ask other people to do, there are others where that simply isn’t possible.
Fremington Rural county councillor Frank Biederman questioned whether the county council should be making such severe trusts while it is still sitting on ‘substantial reserves’.
“They have £50 million in the reserve pot – is that right at this time?” he said.
● To comment on the proposals, visit www.devon.gov.uk/youthreview or sign the Braunton petition at www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/devon-county-council-ensure-that-braunton-youth-club-remains-open
Paper copies of the petition are available in shops and businesses around the village including South Sixteen, The London Inn, Braunton News, Braunton Gym, The Aggi and Wensley’s Newsagents.