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Stafford campaigner slams youth clubs closure threat

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: March 14, 2014

By Alison Thomas

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CLAIMS by Staffordshire County Council that its new approach on youth policies - including closing down youth clubs - will mean "brighter futures" for young people have been dismissed by campaigners fighting to save the county's youth clubs.

The county council is planning to cut its £5.9m annual spend on youth clubs, claiming that 75 per cent of young people don't use them any more.

Instead it plans to survey the "youth picture" in each district, and look at supporting community and independent schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards.

But Stafford borough councillor Rowan Draper dismissed claims that demand for youth clubs was falling.

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"The county is ignoring the 16,000 young people who signed a protest petition about the closures, and the 20,000 Staffordshire youngsters who vote in the UK Youth Parliament," he said.

"It is building up a ridiculous record on consultation. The council decided to cut the youth budget before starting any consultation and, rather than seeking to work with the community, they are just forcing things through."

Mr Draper said the county should be looking at how to modernise youth clubs and make them more appealing to a wider range of young people, rather than aiming for wholesale closures.

And he claimed that the suggestion that volunteers could pick up the slack when county-run youth clubs closed was "ludicrous".

"We need properly trained youth workers to run the clubs," he said. "You wouldn't expect the NHS to ask volunteers to step in and run services instead of surgeons and nurses, and youth work is no different.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet support member for public health and community safety claimed the change was needed to meet the "modern day aspirations"of young people in Staffordshire.

He said: "Young people have told us that a getting a good job and doing well in exams at school are their top priorities and we need to change and focus more on what young people do want and less on what they don't want and don't use."

The proposals to "move away" from council-run youth clubs will go before the county council's cabinet on March 19 for a final decision.

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