Youth centres fear they will close
Youth centres in Scalloway, Sandwick and Whalsay’s Livister will have to close if the support grant for running costs from Shetland Islands Council and the charitable trust ceases in March next year.
The stark warning has been made following a key meeting among youth club volunteers in Scalloway last night.
Councillors are due to consider the matter at a development committee meeting on 8th October, with some elected members understood to be sympathetic to the idea of continuing to provide funding.
However, the charitable trust – which also contributes to the funding pot for youth centres – are so far sticking to a plan to end its share of the grant aid.
That could take £54,000 out of the pot for the next financial year.
The trust have told youth groups that budgets have been set to 31st March 2020, and no new bids are being accepted. Youth club volunteers insist the support would not be a new bid, but rather an existing funding commitment that trustees decided – in private – to cease.
The youth centres have already endured 25 per cent cuts to their funding over the past two years.
Volunteers say they have upped their game in fundraising and have sought external funds.
But many grant bodies do not provide funding for running costs necessary to keep the doors open. Youth club organisers say they are unable to continue to provide the service without any core funding.
Scalloway and Sandwick could each lose £11,000 as a result of the funding chop, while Livister stands to be left £7,000 out of pocket.
A statement from chairwoman of Scalloway youth centre, Sonia Inkster, said she hoped councillors would review their previous decision. She also believed the trust should reconsider its stance.
“The impact of losing youth centres in communities are huge. Children and young people have a sense of ownership and belonging in their youth centres and have a variety of activities and opportunities to build on their skills and confidence.
“Youth centres are also a launch pad for many new projects funded by external bodies as well as volunteering opportunities for young people.
“A number of youth centres have young volunteers doing amazing things and gaining awards such as Saltire, Youth Achievement and Dynamic Young Awards, the latter two being accredited. This is widening the volunteer base for the future in these communities.
“Youth centres have been around for many decades and touched the lives of many children and young people. Don’t let this be the last generation benefitting from these very valuable community assets.”
SIC councillor George Smith said he hoped the council and charitable trust would find a way of supporting youth centres.
He said the grant support was supposed to be axed last year, but were able to continue for a further year thanks to “some carry-forwards” which were available.
He added consultation among groups showed some feared they would lose their business if the grants were cut.
Mr Smith added proposals were due to be brought before the council’s development committee on 8th October which could see support for youth centres and rural sports pitches continue at current levels of “just shy” of £80,000.
“I’ve met with Sandwick youth centre management committee. They are very clear that if that grant stops they won’t be able to continue.
“These are groups catering for young folk. They only get modest grants.
“I hope the council and the charitable trust can find ways of continuing to support what is the voluntary sector.”
No response has yet been received from the charitable trust.