Axe of Seaton Delaval youth club with little warning 'not fair to young people'

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A community council has stepped in to organise youth services after Northumberland County Council abruptly withdrew its service last year.

In its annual budget, Seaton Valley Community Council has allocated £30,000 towards new youth provision, which will be run by the charity Children North East and requires additional external grant funding.

The county council’s dedicated youth service for the area ended in September 2023 and there has been no provision since, with the new service not due to begin until April.

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Representatives on the community council, which covers Holywell, New Hartley, Seaton Delaval, Seaton Sluice, and Seghill, found out about the cut in July when the youth workers told them of the redundancy notices they had received.

Seaton Delaval Community Centre. (Photo by Google)Seaton Delaval Community Centre. (Photo by Google)
Seaton Delaval Community Centre. (Photo by Google)

Cllr Susan Dungworth, chair of Seaton Valley Community Council, said: “It is an essential service for young people and if you do not have a new service, you have young people with nowhere to go, no adults that they are particularly interacting with or building trust with, and increased antisocial behaviour.

“It is not fair to young people, for there to be no provision for them.

“To me it is a no-brainer,” she added. “We have to provide youth services, and it is quite astonishing that the county thinks that they can not provide them.”

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Cllr Dungworth, who is the Labour candidate to be Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, described her “absolute disbelief” at learning that the service would go, and criticised the county council for not discussing the change prior to implementing it.

She said: “We could have worked together to come up with a solution, and instead they just cut it without any communication,” adding: “Even if they were pushed financially to make the decision they made, there is no excuse for how it was done and how they did not try and preserve the service.”

The community council says the service will reduce isolation among young people and help reduce the strain on youth mental health services, as well as preventing antisocial behaviour.

Cllr Dungworth said: “Most young people, even if they have got nothing to do, do not commit antisocial behaviour but you do see where there is a reduction in services for young people that it does increase.”

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She added: “If you cut those sorts of things that are relatively cheap to provide for a large number of people in their own community, you just end up, further down the line, paying more for services.”

Cllr Dungworth said she is “optimistic” about the new service, which will involve an outreach team visiting each village in the council’s area one night per week, setting up at local community facilities.

The service will provide a warm and dry place where young people can play games, have snacks, charge their phones, and discuss any issues with qualified youth workers.

The provision has been informed by a questionnaire completed by young people in the area, and the council hopes a group can be permanently established to give feedback on the service and inform future projects.

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Cllr Dungworth described the prompt organisation of a replacement service as “a testament to partnership working and how close our relationship is with our community and voluntary sector in the area.”

According to Seaton Valley Community Council, the new provision will be an improvement on the previous service, which was used by as many as 40 people each week despite difficulties accessing the youth club’s location in Seaton Delaval on public transport from some villages.

However, the new service’s reliance on grant funding means its long-term future is uncertain.

Cllr Dungworth said: “What really annoys me is that the group is going to have to continually be applying for funding every year so we will not know from one year to the next if we can continue the service, and I do not think that is how you should provide public services.”

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In response, the county council’s cabinet member for young people, Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, said: "In Northumberland, we are committed to providing first-class services for our children and young people so they can thrive and get the most out of life.

“Following consultation with our young people, families, and partners, it was agreed that the best way to achieve these ambitions for our young people and to tackle inequalities was to further develop a more collaborative partnership approach.

“Through our Family Hubs, we have recruited a new team who are working closely with organisations in the community and voluntary sector, as well as with statutory partners, across the county to support them with their excellent work, including exploring funding opportunities.”

The Family Hubs that cover Seaton Valley are based in Blyth and Cramlington, and are not currently offering any events for teenagers in any of the parish’s villages.

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Cllr Renner-Thompson added: “There is a wide range of support and services for young people already in place and we want to ensure that young people are offered the best support for them depending on what they and/or their families need.

"Our hubs themselves also continue to expand their support available for children and young people of all ages and their families, with a wide range of free activities available to all.

“Through this approach, we are building stronger and more sustainable communities where all young people will have the opportunities to take part in activities that improve their health and well-being, and support them and their families.”