Axed youth group left ‘devastated’ as 23 other kids’ community projects across cash-strapped Derbyshire face closure

Youth community groups could be axed to save cash
Youth community groups could be axed to save cash

More than 20 youth activity groups are at risk of being closed down as the county council looks to save money.

A Derbyshire County Council consultation is currently under way into early help services, in a move which will see the authority slash its funding for youth groups by more than half from £12.9 million to £4.5 million by 2020.

A county councillor has said that the proposals will see deprived communities “abandoned”.

Meanwhile, out the 23 youth activities which could be closed – and have been chosen due to claims of low turnout – one group has already been given formal notice that its license will not be renewed.

The council’s consultation into early help is due to finish on Monday, October 22 – but Ironville Railway Carriage Youth Centre has already been told that its services will come to a close on Monday October 8, two weeks ahead of the review’s conclusion.

However, the group, housed in an vintage railway carriage for the past 20 years, first received its three-months’ notice of the service’s termination on Monday, July 9 – before the consultation had even started.

Michael Blount, the honorary administrator of the Ironville and Codnor Park Community Association – which runs the Ironville Youth Carriage service – described the news as “devastating”.

He said: “Total shock, horror, absolute devastation; these words are in no way sufficient to express how members of the association feel regarding the decision which has been taken.

“The community association, run by volunteers, has been in existence since the latter part of the last century and it was this organisation who at that time worked extremely hard in order to establish some form of permanent facility where younger members of the village could meet for both social and recreational purposes.

“For twenty years it has served its purpose extremely well – to some members of the youth club it has been almost a second home.

“It is appreciated that the county is having to make financial cutbacks, but it’s spending that is needed in Ironville, more especially to support and encourage the younger generation.

“Bearing in mind the location of Ironville, an isolated and deprived area; its lack of public transport with some 25 per cent of households not having their own vehicles; surely this is just the place for the provision of youth facilities.”

Mr Blount states that the association had spent £14,000 on “remedial” work to the railway carriage to make repairs and improvements this year – which he says could have been put to another use with prior notice that the group’s licence was not going to be renewed.

County councillor Paul Smith said that he approved £3,000 in funding from the authority’s Community Priorities Programme toward the centre improvements earlier this year – which he says is taxpayers’ money which could have be spent elsewhere.

Cllr Smith, Labour, said: “This is an absolutely devastating decision for the community and tantamount to abandonment by the council of one of the most deprived parts of Derbyshire.

“It is a kick in the teeth for a community that has come together to provide youth facilities for the community and it is paying the price for austerity.

“The most vulnerable have got the least.

“How can you trust the consultation when their fate seems to have already been decided?”

The youth activity groups across Derbyshire, which are at risk of closure, have been handpicked due to a perceived fall in the average number of attendees.

The county council’s consultation documents state that the youth activities run by the Ironville and Codnor Park Community Association attract an average of eight young people.

However, communication seen by the Derbyshire Local Democracy Service between the council’s children’s services department and Mr Blount, show that the association regularly attracts 20 or more young people.

A random selection of youth club numbers provided by the council shows that attendance only dropped to the “average” of eight attendees once in 18 samples taken from the past two years, and some days attendance rises above 30.

Cabinet member for young people, Cllr Alex Dale, Conservative, said: “Changes to the way our early help service is funded and a reduction in grants means we need to propose changes to concentrate our resources on children and families who need help the most and to ensure they continue to receive it.

“We also want to make sure we concentrate our resources on the type of activities which have been proven to work best for them.

“The county council currently provides a substantial early help offer but providing this kind of help is the responsibility of all public organisations including schools, not just ours, so we’re also taking this opportunity to consider more effective ways of working with partners as we look closely at all our services to ensure they’re as efficient as possible.

“For some services, including early help, this will mean taking a different approach to how they’re run or funded in future.

“With this in mind, our proposals also include supporting other organisations and the many community and voluntary groups which already provide this kind of help to families across the county.

“We’re encouraging residents to take part in our consultation and give us their views about the proposed changes which we’ll carefully consider before any decisions are made.”

To take part in the consultation, visit bit.ly/2NfFxbU

The 23 youth activities at risk of closure are listed below, listed by district, along with the average number of attendees, as listed by the county council:

Amber Valley – Ironville and Codnor Park Community Association – eight

Amber Valley – Amber Valley Girls Group – six

Amber Valley – Amber Valley Ripley Young Womens Group (Ripley Multi Agency Team) – four

Amber Valley – AV Ripley Young Mens Group (Ripley MAT) – five

Chesterfield – PWC Wednesdays – five

Chesterfield – CHES Loundsley Green – 10

Chesterfield – Hasland Youth Group – five

Chesterfield – Springwell Squad – five

Erewash – Erewash Cotmanhay Girls Group – seven

Erewash – Petersham Alter8 – N/A

Erewash – Long Eaton Girls Group – six

Erewash – KH Girls Group – six

Erewash – Sandiacre targeted (Monday) – five

High Peak & North Derbyshire Dales – Darley Dale Project – six

North East Derbyshire – BNE Whitwell Hub – 12

North East Derbyshire – BNE SN MAT Tuesday Late – six

North East Derbyshire – BNE SN MAT Wednesday Group – four

North East Derbyshire – BNE Creswell Wednesday – five

North East Derbyshire – Boys Group – seven

North East Derbyshire – BOLSNE NED Tuesday Girls Group Years 9-11 – two

South Derbyshire – SD Info4U Advice and Information – two

South Derbyshire – SD Reactive Project Detached – 16

South Derbyshire – SD Choicez – four

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service