Belfast Telegraph

Youth leaders fear ‘huge void’ if funding runs out

by Natalie Irvine

As police estimate the cost of controlling the “youth orchestrated” rioting in Ardoyne last month will run into millions, local community leaders despair that there are no plans in place to renew their youth service core funding — set to run out early next year.

Last Thursday, July 29, community workers highlighted their concerns to Social Development Minister Alex Attwood as he visited the Ardoyne and Marrowbone projects currently financed by the Neighbourhood Renewal Action Plan (NRAP) — funding which comes to an end in March 2011.

Mairtin O'Dochartaish, community development officer for Marrowbone Community Association, said: “I have heard it cost somewhere around £450,000 to control the first two nights of rioting in the Ardoyne over the Twelfth.

“It takes less than that amount to run a youth service with two full-time youth workers and two part-time youth workers for seven years. I wonder where this money comes from sometimes, and why more can’t be directed towards youth provision and in the first place.

“The Neighbourhood Renewal Action Plan has really come into play the past 13 months here. There is so much more partnership work going on between all the groups in the area —it is really starting to work.

“But we lost our centre based full-time youth worker earlier this year, as did Deanby youth club when the funding from the North Belfast Community Action Unit ran out. At the moment our 40 hour weekly youth provision service is run by a part-time (18 hours) youth worker, who is currently funded through NRAP, and volunteers.

“This funding is set to run out in March next year.

“It’s not even the jobs going that worries us, it is the fact that these vital services to the community will be lost.”

Shane Whelehan, Director of Ardoyne Youth Providers Forum said: “We lost two outreach posts in April this year along with two centre-based youth workers. A lot of the young people don’t access centre-based services and there is no other way to reach them, to get them into training and the like, unless we have people on the street doing this.

“Over 6,000 people live in this area, a third of which are young people. At present we only have two centre-based youth workers to cover this whole area, and are funded under the NRAP— this ends early next year. The police are telling us it costs millions to control the riots. I can’t understand why the funding is not there to do the preventative work in the first place?”

Speaking about the prospect of budget cuts from the forthcoming spending review, Mr Attwood said: “Those in need must not carry the burden of budget reductions. Any loss in Neighbourhood Renewal could result in that outcome. The argument for Neighbourhood Renewal must prevail.”

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