The other evening I was out at a local youth centre to do a quality inspection. It was an interesting visit as I hadn’t seen the centre since it had been built however I had been involved in at the very early stages when the plans had been drawn up for the building. As is usual nowadays there was limited funding and various amounts of competition for space from other community users. This meant that there was a considerable amount of compromise and I was frequently advising against building it over two floors and looking for where we could add in more storage space, outside play area etc.
It was therefore interesting to see the bricks and mortar in situ and the design translated into reality. The really positive news was that the young people had developed a lot of ownership of the youth centre and looked really comfortable and ‘at home’ in the upstairs part of the centre. It was definately thriving and fulfilling a need. The disappointing part was the difficulty in opening the downstairs level due to staffing numbers and problems in supervising it. This was quite frustrating as there is a lot of music equipment stored down there and ambitions to develop this side of the club. We’re working on solutions and as the evenings get lighter I can see the group slowly gravitating to the downstairs area however my frustration is more in knowing that this would be the case early on in the planning and not having succeeded on being influential enough in getting more floor space. I was even more frustrated to see the “NO BALL GAMES” signs 😦 fixed to the outside of the building in prime open space with no area being designated for this.
This frustration is echoed in the redevelopment of many of the schools that is happening across the area at the moment. We have quite a few Youth Wings (youth buildings on school sites) and as they are looking to gain Academy status or further funding for development the Youth Wings are frequently getting overlooked and actually disappearing from plans. Part of my job is to ensure that we maintain the profile of the youth service and continually advocate for ‘places to go’ for young people however with schools and their finances being outside of our service and there being limited joined up working in this aspect I always feel like the poor relation however well I try to influence etc.
However (back to the positive) the work at the new centre above has been recognised by various agencies and noticably there have been less reports of young people hanging around (not an issue for me but it is in for people in many of our villages in the area) and the crime figures are down (I’m not sure how related these are to the centre being open however this is being highlighted as the reason for it!). We’ve also managed to secure short term funding to pilot an information, advice and support session which is proving successful as it is more accessible than the nearest town which is difficult to reach due to limited public transport.