Fears for youth after Chippenham workers axed
Chippenham is to lose all its youth workers but one when its youth development centre closes at the end of next month.
Wiltshire Council confirmed the Bridge Centre will no longer be required by the youth work team after September.
And 11 of Chippenham’s 14 youth work team staff are set to be made redundant in just over five weeks time.
Wiltshire Council’s budget cuts, announced in May, mean the onus for the organisation of youth services will, from October, be put onto local communities through their area boards.
The loss of paid experts, some of whom have been working with young people for ten years, is causing great concern across the county.
Already youth clubs in Devizes, Marlborough, Melksham, Bradford on Avon and Holt have said they will be closing their doors because they cannot continue without a council-funded youth worker.
Ed Deedigan, director of Kandu Arts, which works cross community specialising in those hard to reach and in particular young people, said he had had crucial partnerships with workers at the Bridge Centre.
He said he thought the national government was short-sighted in not ensuring there were enough funds to legislate for their needs.
“I think it is akin to losing teachers in a school,” he said. “There is less chance of a young person coming across a professional whose role is to support their needs.
“The situation leaves a massive hole in provision.
“It is a major shame for Chippenham. It is very much a false economy not having a support mechanism for young people.
“They’re old enough to have their own minds and sometimes angry enough to react in a way that can sometimes have devastating consequences if they’re not considered.
“We should all take collective responsibility; don’t sit back and expect everything to be resolved by politicians. Make sure the hole is filled so more young people don’t fall through the net.”
A Wiltshire Council spokes-man said: “There will be a strong focus on building community capacity by assisting voluntary and community sector groups, encouraging volunteering and making the most out of community resources.
“We will look to redeploy staff where we can and three already have been.
“We are still interviewing people for other posts so there may be other people redeployed.”
Chippenham’s senior youth development co-ordinator has been retained in the new role of community youth officer.
He will support the volunteers in providing youth services and will have to apply for funding from Chippenham Area Board.
One worker has been made the community youth officer for Calne and another has been given a different admin role.
Wiltshire Council said as well as a £270,000 budget for youth activities, about £300,000 is being devolved across area boards for youth projects from October, partly from funds earmarked for repairs and maintenance.
Youth centres in Devizes and Marlborough have already shut.
In May, Cabinet member for youth services Laura Mayes pledged no building would close until an alternative venue such as a village hall was found.
A Wiltshire Council spokesman said last week: “Many arrangements have been made to relocate some [Chippenham] groups to the Olympiad with more arrangements to be made in due course.”
There is a media suite at the leisure centre which is already used by youth groups some evenings.