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'Please don't close our youth centre'

By Cheadle Post and Times  |  Posted: March 26, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

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YOUNGSTERS using a village youth club are pleading for it not to be closed after the county council announced it is changing the way it runs the service.

Staffordshire County Council plans could see up to 400 youth workers losing their jobs and being replaced by volunteers, as it looks to save £2.8 million a year.

While youth club buildings will be handed to the Strategic Property Unit, Staffordshire County of Voluntary Youth Services and other partners will look at the future usage and position of each property.

Blythe Bridge Youth Club, which takes place in the Egerton Centre in Uttoxeter Road, Blythe Bridge, has 120 members who attend every Monday and Thursday from 6pm to 9pm.

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Members are pleading for the club not to close and have even offered to pay extra admission and undertake fund-raising activities to keep the club open.

Post & Times reporter Abbey Buxton visited the youth club last week to speak to the members.

Mitchel Johnson, aged 12, from Weston Coyney, said: "The youth club is good because it's somewhere to come when there is nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.

"I don't know why they are looking to potentially get rid of the youth centres because they get kids off the streets.

"I'd be happy to pay an extra 50p admission to keep it open and fund-raise because it shouldn't be allowed to close.

"I don't agree with them getting rid of youth leaders because ours are really good; they help us with games and entertain us and are always up for a laugh."

Wade Dawson, aged 12, from Cresswell, said: It's a place where everyone can meet and gets us out of the house and off the streets.

"What the council is doing is terrible because they've given us something good to take us off the streets and now it could be closing.

"I'd be happy to pay extra and do car washes and other fund-raising to keep it open if we need to."

Ellie McDonald, aged 12, from Blythe Bridge, said: "This is somewhere to spend time with friends out of school and it keeps kids out of trouble and gives us something to do.

"It's really sad that it might close because it's ace and I wouldn't mind paying extra and fund-raising because I really want to keep it open.

"The leaders are all really friendly and helpful."

Amy Carter, aged 13, from Blythe Bridge, said: "There's nothing else to do without this and I don't think what the council is doing is fair because people are always moaning about us hanging around on the streets and this is the only thing to do around here.

"I agree with fund-raising and paying extra if we need to; the leaders are really good and helpful and approachable."

Eve Fleming, aged 12, of Blythe Bridge, said: "It's good here because if you're bored you can come and have friends to chat to and other stuff to do instead of being outside.

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"It's a stupid decision because one minute they're saying kids shouldn't sit at home playing computer games, then they're saying kids shouldn't be hanging around outside, and now they're trying to change our youth clubs.

"All the leaders are funny and are good at giving us advice and easy to talk to and give us our freedom.

"We could pay more and do fund-raising to keep it open if we need to and ask for donations."

Bethany Callcott, aged 13, from Meir Park, said: "It's good fun and I can hang around with my friends.

"It's stupid because we need our freedom and they are always trying to stop us from doing what we want to.

"I'd be happy to do fund-raising and pay more to keep it open.

"The leaders are really good they make us laugh and are always there for us if we need them."

Joe Kay, aged 13, from Blythe Bridge, said: "It's stupid because this is somewhere for us to see our friends and keep us off the street.

"I would pay extra and fund-raise to keep the club and leaders, they are really friendly and helpful and it would be a shame to lose them."

Grant Wright, aged 12, of Weston Coyney, said: "This is somewhere to go to stop us going on the streets.

"It's a ridiculous idea of the council's because they moan about us playing on computers and stuff, but if this shuts everyone will just stay at home.

"The leaders are all sound and I'd pay more and fund-raise to keep this going."

Josh Gray, aged 13, from Meir, said: "I play football and do everything here with my friends.

"There's nothing in Meir and Weston Coyney, so it's stupid if they close this and I don't understand why they're even thinking about doing it.

"The leaders are really good with us if we've got a problem and are funny.

"We could do things like cross bar challenges and penalty shoot-outs to raise money to keep it going."

Joe Preston, aged 13, from Draycott, said: "I come here to play football off the streets and don't cause trouble.

"The decisions they're making are idiotic because they tell us to get off the computer and play outside, but then we get in trouble for being 'anti-social', so there's nothing we can do without this.

"I don't mind paying more and fund-raising and doing something like sponsored football matches."

Ryan Roberts, aged 13, from Lightwood, said: "It's something to do because there's nothing else apart from knocking around on the streets and getting told off for it.

"It's just stupid. Kids have got to do something otherwise they get bored and do stupid things.

"The leaders are a good laugh and help make it such a good place to be.

"I think doubling what we pay to get in would go a long way to keeping it open."

Megan Ryan, aged 13, of Blythe Bridge, said: "I like coming here to play games and see my friends from other schools.

"It will be really sad if they shut it because I won't be able to do that.

"The leaders are all amazing and do a really good job.

"I'd pay more money and do things like jumble sales to help raise money for the club."

Blythe Bridge and Tean PCSO John Staples is concerned about where the kids will go if the youth leaders have to leave and there is no-one else to take over the club.

He said: "It's the fact of where are the kids going to go and what impact will it have on the local area and police.

"This is a low anti-social behaviour area at the moment, but if you've suddenly got 120 kids, which had previously been occupied every Monday and Thursday night, with nothing to do what's going to happen?

"There is potential for anti-social behaviour to rise because there is nothing else for them to do, except to hang around, but people don't want to see them hanging around so where are they going to go.

"It's good to see the kids with the drive to help take this on and contribute towards keeping it going.

"I'm really encouraged by their response and it's fantastic to hear their views and opinions and passion to keep it going, with or without the help of the council.

"There is plenty of positivity here, I just hope the county council will listen.

"I don't see how it's fair to target this centre with under performing ones in the same way and category.

"Fair enough something needs to be done about ones that aren't running successfully, but this should be an example and marker of what they should step up to.

"I don't think there are many that have 120 people twice a week."

Staffordshire's youth services cover young people aged 13 to 19, or 25 years for those with a learning difficulty or disability. Currently, the county council provides a traditional universal open access service. However, four out of five of the 73,315 young people in Staffordshire did not use the service in the last year, which cost £8.73m to provide.

Under the new proposals the county council says it is moving away from traditional building-based youth centres and it wants to work closer with schools, colleges, voluntary and community groups to provide a wider range of opportunities for all young people in their communities.

Support would continue for the Duke of Edinburgh, Bremen Exchange, V-Talent Contract and National Citizenship Schemes, which all help to increase young people's employability, and social and life skills.

The council published a survey to hear from young people, particularly the majority in Staffordshire who do not currently use its youth services, to understand why and the issues they consider to be important to them.

Of the 3,000 residents who took part in the consultation around 2,500 were young people and they gave their views not only on what they wanted from youth services, but what was important for them in life.

Top issues for young people included exams, future careers and school work.

For more on this story turn to Page 6.

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