Rising costs mean youth service may have to close

Northumberland Gazette latest
Northumberland Gazette latest

A key youth drop-in centre in north Northumberland is in danger of folding if it can not secure crucial funding.

Wooler Drop-in is at a ‘crossroads’ and is relying on successful bids for cash, including to the National Lottery. But if the attempts are unsuccessful, then it could be facing closure.

Chairman of trustees, Guy Richardson, explained the desperate situation at last week’s Wooler Parish Council meeting.

Parish councillors said it was an important community service and have vowed to do what they can to help.

Mr Richardson said: “We are coming to a crossroads. If we are unsuccessful for any of the funding bids and unsuccessful for lottery funding, we will have to close or take that direction to possibly close.

“We don’t have the money to continue to operate. That is the bottom line. This year, we have been living on our savings.”

He said that one of the problems has been the cost of the rent in recent years for the group’s base on High Street.

Mr Richardson told members that the Glendale Gateway Trust had charged the centre £1 to use the facility, but three years ago, the cost of the rent was raised to £3,000 a year. The lease is up for renewal once again.

He also said that the service was facing rising running costs.

Mr Richardson explained: “When I joined the management committee in 2010, we had just started to be funded by the National Lottery, to the tune of £21,000 or £22,000 a year. The centre cost around £25,000 a year to run.

“But as of April of last year, it cost £35,000 a year to run. During that time, we have taken on a salary of a youth adviser, whose role has been crucial – to give advice on things such as alcohol or drug abuse, and sexual health, to both groups and also on a one-to-one basis.

“Eventually, we had to go outside for funding because a lot of our funding had ended.

“The other thing that has happened during this time period is the cost of the building.

“They (the Trust) said that £3,000 was below the market rent; that is why we have the business of paying for the repairs and all of the services. The other thing about the building is that it is in need of refurbishment.

“The Trust is in a similar position to us, but there needs to be a bit of give and take,

“The Lottery funding ended last April. We currently have an application in to the Lottery for three years of funding, but we haven’t had a reply yet. We are also going to field three more applications for up to £30,000.

“If we could get this funding, it would give us breathing space for about a year; that’s without an increase in staff and services.”

Councillors were dismayed to hear about the drop-in’s plight, with one member saying ‘we need to get our heads together and see what we can do together on this. I think the Gateway Trust has a part to play and the parish council has a part to play’.

Coun Mark Mather said: “I think the work you have done is fantastic and what the youth have got out of it is fantastic. It would be an absolutely huge loss if this was to close. We should write to the Glendale Gateway Trust to look favourably on you, especially when it is at such a pivotal stage. This affects a lot of people in Wooler.”

The drop-in is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursday, 7pm to 9.30pm. The sessions normally attract around 20 youngsters, but it can pull in up to 40 people, providing a safe, warm and friendly environment for 13 to 25-year-olds.

Mr Richardson said: “It is one of the only things in the area for young people.”

Visit www.woolerdropin.org.uk for more information.