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Campaign launched to save ‘invaluable’ youth drop-in centre

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LOCAL district councillor, Adam Boyden, is appealing to YMCA Mendip to rethink its decision to close Routes, the young people’s drop-in centre on Palmer Street.

The centre, which provided advice and guidance to young people on a wide range of issues including housing and homelessness, benefits, health and employment, permanently closed last week due to a ‘decrease’ in funding.

Cllr Boyden has said the decision to close the centre is a ‘bad’ one and has launched a petition calling for YMCA Mendip to work with other local groups, organisations and authorities to explore how a drop-in advice centre for young people can continue in the town centre.

“This is a bad decision. Routes is an important part of our community support network and an invaluable and unique service,” said cllr Boyden. “Young people need a young people’s service that understands both their feelings and their particular requirements and needs.

“Young people will hopefully be guided towards other agencies, but there is nowhere like Routes that can provide an open access drop-in service specifically aimed at young people. It is inevitable that many will not get the help and support they need.

“I have launched a petition to call on the YMCA to reconsider their decision while suitable alternative arrangements and funding are explored and secured.”

YMCA Mendip, who managed the centre, said that the decision to close Routes had not been ‘taken lightly’, explaining that the project had become ‘unsustainable’ due to funding coming to an end, and the changing needs of young people accessing their services.

The drop-in centre previously faced closure in 2017, when it was discovered that the YMCA could no longer afford to keep it open. In response a community campaign raised tens of thousands of pounds to help fund the centre for another year. 

Further funding was secured through the Youth Investment Fund, a government and National Lottery scheme, but this comes to an end in March 2020.

A spokesperson from YMCA Mendip said, “This funding (from the Youth Investment Fund) also provides the majority of our youth and community work, and therefore priorities for future funding have had to be focussed on our direct youth work and our youth clubs where the need is greatest. 

“Housing information and advice has for some years now been provided by Mendip District Council and this will continue to be the main point of contact for young people experiencing emergency housing issues. We work very closely with the housing advice team and will continue to facilitate this vital housing advice work. 

“The decision to close Routes on 1st November has been brought forward due to our dedicated and experienced staff leaving for pastures new. 

“We have been closely monitoring the numbers of young people using the service over the last year and we are confident that for these young people, there are alterative services providing advice and guidance across the district. 

“We are working with the young people who have been using Routes over a period of time and will ensure that they are supported to access alternative services and move on from the service in a planned way. 

“YMCA Frome Youth and Community Centre will continue to provide advice and guidance for the young people of the town through their youth groups and project work. We are already working on the use of the building where the Routes service has operated, to continue to be a valuable part of the community. 

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank not just our dedicated staff team, but funders and individuals who have helped make this project possible over the years.”

About the end of Routes, Frome town councillor Andy Wrintmore told Frome Times, “This has come as a surprise and it’s a shame to see it close as it has provided a good service for its clients over the years. This is however obviously a decision that has been made within a wider strategic picture and so we at Frome Town Council remain committed to supporting young people in the town by working with the YMCA and our other partners.”

To sign cllr Boyden’s petition, appealing against the decision to close the centre, visit: www.somertonandfromelibdems.org.uk/routes_petition

The closure of Routes coincides with a campaign urging the government to save youth services ‘before it’s too late’. The campaign is being led by YMCA England and Wales, and YMCA Mendip is encouraging the local community to show their support.

They say, “Youth services have long been a cornerstone in our communities, providing young people with somewhere to go, something to do and someone to speak to. However, as local authorities struggle with the weight of the funding pressures they are under, youth services are increasingly being forced to bear the brunt of the cuts.

“In 2010 Somerset spent £11,402 on youth services, this financial year this figure has plummeted by 93.97% to a heart breaking £688.”

To sign the petition visit: www.ymca.org.uk/youth

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