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Youth centre funding cut set to ‘damage lives for generations’

Warning that youth workers will lose connection with the community

10 February, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

A YOUTH centre boss has spoken out about the “massive blow” of ­losing funding from the council.

Jackie Rosenberg, deputy chief executive at Paddington Development Trust which manages the Stowe Centre, Harrow Road, said it will be losing out on sessions and there would be five redundancies.

Westminster Council withdrew all its funding for youth centres around the borough last September.

Ms Rosenberg said: “We can’t afford to run the traditional youth club that we have been running, as the grant cuts are really hard to replace, year in, year out. We don’t want to lose the connection with all these young people and to cut these services.”

The centre in Westbourne Park currently holds sessions four nights a week for teenagers, but this will be reduced to just one from the start of April.

Ms Rosenberg added: “The bit that gets lost in translation is when you have a full-time senior youth worker, a lot of their work is not just delivering sessions in the evening, managing staff or setting up activities. It is the relationship they have with the local police, social workers, family workers. Our senior workers spend a lot of time engaging families and children and all those other people. That will be a big loss that will be a lot less visible.”

The senior youth worker facing redundancy has been with the centre for many years, said Ms Rosenberg. “He knows whole families, generations of families, he has seen them grow up – you cant really put a ­value on that.”

Ms Rosenberg is one of the trustees for the new Young Westminster Foundation, which is part funded by the council and partly by the John Lyons charity. “They will be raising money for children and young people, but it has just started. It will take quite a while to replace such levels of funding.” And while they were “working hard” with the foundation to find longer term solutions, she added, “I won’t pretend this isn’t a massive blow. And we are not alone. The Avenues youth centre [in Queen’s Park], Four Feathers [in Lisson Grove], there were 14 youth centres that received some level of funding”.

At the moment, there are also drama sessions for younger children from Fliss’s Fame Academy and ­­Ms Rosenberg hopes other organisations will host activities at the centre.

She added: “I passionately believe in having lots of provision for young people. Historically in areas of London and the UK, where there has been inadequate provision, those areas pay the price for that. How often do you hear that there is not enough for young people to do?”

Westminster Labour leader Adam Hug said: “Sadly our worst fears are becoming a reality. This heartless and thoughtless Tory cut will damage lives for generations to come. The council leadership should be ashamed of itself.”

Conservative councillor Richard Holloway, the 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.”

He added: “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 exciting new charity will make sure that youth organisations get greater access to a sustainable pool of funding for the future.”

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