Community vows to fight against funding cuts as centre gets set to lose youth workers
Stowe Centre youth worker says funding cuts will hit hard
Users of The Stowe Centre in Harrow Road
A SENIOR youth worker has made an impassioned plea for the council to reverse major funding cuts to youth services. Michael Dipple, who has worked at the Stowe Centre in Harrow Road for 33 years, warned the decision to cut all funding to youth centres last September would hit deprived communities hard. The effects are now being felt.
Changes coming on April 1 will mean the popular Stowe Centre can only run sessions one night a week and several youth workers, including Mr Dipple, who is employed by the Paddington Development Trust, are set to lose their jobs.
Speaking to the West End Extra before a forum at Lord’s Cricket Ground on Monday, Mr Dipple said: “These kids around here are my babies, I was their parents’ youth worker, I’m their youth worker. Thirty-three years is a long time and you don’t get paid a lot of money to do this job, you do it because you love people. I only wish the council would show a bit of love to poorer areas like this.”
Senior youth worker at The Stowe, Micahel Dipple
“This is a deprived area. Many parents suffer from all sorts of ailments, we work with people whose children are in prison or in the criminal justice system, with those who have drug and alcohol problems. These young people who are at risk, if they are on the streets it is going to be the criminal justice system – which is 10 times if not more money than it is keeping a youth centre open.
“It seems to me that residents around here aresleepwalking into gentrification. They’re so traumatised by cuts everywhere now, they’re worried about the roof over their heads, they’re being told that they are sponging off the system, they are made to feel like second-class citizens. They are even being told that basically in a roundabout way they shouldn’t be living in Westminster.”
He added: “This is central London, this is the powerhouse local authority, this is Westminster, known throughout the world. And we can’t afford around a million pounds to run all the youth services?” Speaking at the Stowe, mother Dawn Herbert, who has lived around the Harrow Road area for more than 20 years, said if the centre wasn’t there it would mean “more crime, more children on the street, more drugs”.
She recalled how much her children enjoyed coming to the centre, adding: “This was their safe haven. I feel very disappointed that West-minster is trying to take this away.”
The Stowe Centre in Harrow Road
Deborah Raveneau another mother who lives locally, praised Mr Dipple’s work adding: “Michael is Stowe. He helps everybody, he is therefor everybody, apart from the activities, he always helps.”
Grandmother Jacqui Kendall, who has lived locally for 34 years and whose children and grandchildren went to the Stowe, said: “We are going to fight for this tooth and nail. I’m 60s born. When I was young as a kid, we had youth clubs, play centres, everything you can think of.”
Cllr Richard Holloway, cabinet member for children, families and young people, said: “Our priority is to protect the most vulnerable in our society, including young people. As we deal with shrinking budgets we are looking at new and creative ways to maximise our resources.
“It is worth noting that funding for youth clubs across Westminster already comes from many different sources outside of the council. We have had to take some difficult decisions on youth clubs, but the Young Westminster Foundation will allow us to raise funds in new and innovative ways.”
This new charity would ensure youth organisations had greater access to a sustainable pool of future funding, he added.