‘We have seen a lot of services go, but there’s still more out there than people know about’ – it’s not all doom and gloom in terms of youth provision.
In the latest in our series of articles on what is available for young people in north Northumberland, which has proved a real talking point among our readers, the Gazette spoke to the staff at the Gallery Youth project.
And while funding is becoming more scarce and times are hard, the positive news is that there is still a lot of support for young people out there.
The Gallery Youth project in Alnwick has suffered cutbacks, as funding for services has been reduced and more and more organisations are vying for a smaller number of grants.
But despite this, manager IanMcRae said: “We have managed to keep our core business going and we are open at some point five days a week.”
The centre, which is just off the main street at the back of 39 Bondgate Within, is open for evening drop-ins on Monday, Thursday and Friday, while there are advice sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There are also specific careers guidance sessions on Wednesday afternoons.
The building, opened in 1996, is far larger than you might expect from the outside, with a big backyard that is used in the summer, and contains the facilities that some have mentioned in discussions about youth provision – pool table, games consoles, darts. Simply put, it is a place where young people can hang out with friends.
These days, there can be anything from five to 20 people there on an evening, but it’s not just about somewhere to go.
“It’s not just about getting young people off the street,” said Ian. “It’s about addressing the problems they have.”
Senior youth worker, Sue Patience, added: “There’s been huge rises in mental-health issues as a knock-on effect of austerity.”
Ian continued: “We are also still tackling housing issues, even though we don’t run that service any more (Gallery Youth used to run supported accommodation in Alnwick), and we have been running food-bank services for young people.”
Providing this type of support means that, however valuable they are, you cannot rely solely on volunteers, as you need professionals with the right training.
And this costs money – overall, £80-£100,000 a year has to be raised by the charity, but so far, Gallery Youth continues to provide its valuable services.
Sue said: “The Government is not investing in young people; they do feel disenfranchised.”
Ian added: “For young people to make their way in the world these days, it’s very difficult unless you have very supportive parents and come from a stable financial background.”