Youth services closure fears

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A DEARNE business centre and its youth club in could close under the latest plans by council bosses to claw back cash.

A re-structuring of the Children, Young People and Families department could be approved at the end of this month, to save the authority up to £3 million, with £1.68 million to be cut within the Youth Support Services.

Several youth clubs could be closed down within Barnsley, and the independently-run Hickleton Youth Project in Thurnscoe is linked to the Thurnscoe Business Centre in Princess Drive, that is itself under threat of sale or closure.

Such is the concern about the future for the businesses that could be affected by such a decision, and the lack of alternative facilities for Thurnscoe’s young people, that a public meeting has been called tonight, from 7pm at the youth centre.

Councillors along with Dearne MP John Healey have been invited.

Youth project manager Ian Ball is incensed by the idea that the Hickleton Youth Project may fold. The only alternative, he said, would be to have an outreach service but that leads to problems with storage, staffing and communication.

There are already problems with gangs and anti-social behaviour on the streets of Thurnscoe and Goldthorpe, and the youth project does vital work with up to 60 attending ‘core’ members and 250 kids aged from six to 19 on the books at any one time, he said.

Mr Ball, 54, of Thurnscoe, added: “No-one has any real information but the deciding meeting for the council is on February 28 we understand.

“In my heart I want to fight this to the end, even to the point of a lock-in. Thurnscoe needs more support and services, not to have what it’s already got taken away. If the business centre goes, so do many jobs, and we’ll fight this all the way. For now, until we hear different, it’s business as usual.”

Mr Ball is employed by the Hickleton Youth Project charity that in turn is funded by Children in Need. Another worker is employed for 10 hours and there is a bank of trained volunteers.

Because of the current funding review, his youth project has lost a £4,000 grant from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, because a guarantee of two years’ future use could not be given.

“We have never paid rent over 10 years but have been required to do all internal and external repairs within terms of the lease,” added Mr Ball. “To lose our building would be such a blow.”

No comment was available from Barnsley Council.