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Young People are a priority for Frome town council

THE vital lifeblood of our town, the youth and specifically those people between the ages of 0 – 19 years of age, are often much maligned and forgotten, says Frome Town Council.

To address this head on during 2013, the council made it a huge priority to assess the provision of youth services in the town and make recommendations of how they can improve facilities for young people in our town.

A report, researched and written by Tessa Hibbert and commissioned jointly by the council and Mendip YMCA identified  a number of discoveries and recommendations  which when taken forward will address the concerns of Frome’s young people.

Tessa said, “One of the key challenges in recent years is that the services for young people in Frome have been hit hard by national and local budget restrictions, sadly further significant changes are to come, as the county council seeks to change the way services for young children are provided through children’s centres.”

Alongside the investigations, group of young people were offered training and support to become ‘young researchers’. They proved invaluable to the research and developed a youth consultation strategy to find out what young people in Frome want and need. Building on existing consultation findings, such as the 2008 Vision for Frome report, they went on to consult over 300 young people in a range of settings.

The consultation concluded that young people want more hang out spaces in the town, and require flexible services that can adapt to their irregular routines as they balance increasing demands from college, part time work and family.

Tessa analysed local data trends  alongside the findings, which revealed that there is 10% increase in the number of 2-12 year olds projected for the town over the next five years. The research concludes that current provision in Frome, whilst of a good standard, is limited to those who can afford it and is, therefore, not currently meeting all young people’s needs.

Open access services are particularly vulnerable to service cuts but play a crucial role in maintaining ‘community cohesion’. These should be supplemented, in particular by services close to where young people live or like to hang out.

The research recommends that FTC consider investing in a youth worker/ co-ordinator who can: fill some of the gaps in provision; co-ordinate youth providers across the town; ensure quality in services; support communities; and make better use of potential youth spaces. This investment could be channelled through a new town council managed post or commissioned out to a youth provider in the town.

The report also recommends that future FTC grant funding supports young people’s stated desire for places to go and things to do; supports young people’s access to activities they are interested in; encourages inter-generational relationships; maintains play provision; protects important services such as post natal groups, the toy library and the young carers group which may be at risk; and maintains the development of youth voice in decisions that affect young people.

Moving forwards into 2014 several recommendations are being acted upon by Frome Town Council in response to these findings, a series of pop up youth centres are being looked into which will be made available all over the town, in order that as many young people can access them as possible.

The Youth Council goes from strength to strength, as do the mayor and deputy mayor for young people, who have reached the half way point in their term of office. The Open Spaces Strategy is currently being assessed to look at access to parks and play areas for younger children and the deployment of a youth services provider is being funded by the town council. who are looking for match funding to make this post full time.

In conclusion some very positive and challenging steps are being taken to ensure the young people of Frome are being listened to, are being engaged with, and are increasingly valued as part of the growing fabric of our town.