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Youngsters set to lose out as council cuts hit youth programme

PUBLISHED: 11:00 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:25 02 July 2010

The Right Direction group are facing closure. Pictured: Doreen Atkins with son Darren.

The Right Direction group are facing closure. Pictured: Doreen Atkins with son Darren.

David Bale

Hundreds of youngsters are set to lose out when a Norfolk-wide programme set up to steer youths away from crime ends in April because of county council cuts to voluntary services.

Hundreds of youngsters are set to lose out when a Norfolk-wide programme set up to steer youths away from crime ends in April because of county council cuts to voluntary services.

The Right Direction encourages children to take part in positive activities during the school holidays and is open to youngsters, aged ten to 16, from deprived areas who have been identified as being at risk of drifting into crime by schools and other agencies.

Key workers from the council's children's services and the YMCA support the youngsters during the holidays and offer ongoing support and guidance through each school term.

But that is about to end after the programme was denied renewed funding for the next year because of a £1.4m cut to the council's children's services voluntary sector budget.

Doreen Atkins, 37, from Clarkson Road, Earlham, is the mother of Darren Atkins, 11, who has been on the programme for two to three years, and takes part in the programme at his school, the City Academy in Earlham.

Mrs Atkins said: “This could affect up to 300 children from the most deprived areas in Norfolk. The programme helps children that could get into trouble and to keep them off the streets.

“As part of the programme my son went to Twin Oaks care group in Bowthorpe during half-term week and it helps build self-esteem and confidence.

“You always hear about anti-social behaviour and ASBOs, but there's nothing for these children to do in the areas, and that's why this service is so important.”

Nick Blanch, operations manager for the YMCA's schools team, who has been involved in the programme, said about 13 jobs were also on the line because of the cuts.

It comes a week after the Evening News revealed that County Hall bosses would not be renewing their funding for Future, formally the NR5 Project, which provides services to reduce anti-social behaviour by providing support and activities for young people.

As reported, the county council has reduced its yearly children's services voluntary sector funding from £2.4m to £1m as part of a package of cuts as it faces a possible £115m financial black hole, and 21 out of 29 groups which had hoped to renew existing funding will miss out.

Lisa Christensen, the council's director of children's services, said: “We currently spend nearly £15m a year in the voluntary sector so that they can help us improve the lives of Norfolk's children, young people and their families.

“This coming financial year, the resources available to children's services overall will be approximately £10m less than we would need to carry on at the same level as this year. Therefore, there will be a reduction in funding of around £1m to the voluntary sector.”

Has your organisation been dealt a recent funding blow? Call Evening News reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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