'Disappearing' youth groups plea for financial support

By Paul Heaney
BBC News

Media caption,
Crime concern over youth club closures in Wales

A call for help has been made to stop dozens of Wales' youth groups from "disappearing".

The Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services said about 30% of the sector was not confident it would make it past the current financial year.

It argued councils should divert more money - such as cash received from housing developments - into the sector.

The Welsh Local Government Association said it was up to councils consider what is best for their area.

The Welsh Government has commissioned a review of youth services in Wales, after a report last year warned of an "alarming decline", with more than 100 youth groups closing over four years.

The Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services represents many groups in the sector.

Chief executive, Paul Glaze, said there was a risk many would not survive before long-term plans to improve youth provision were put in place.

"I'm sorry to say that really could be the case - many will certainly be struggling and some won't survive at all," he said.

"If they're not around in the next six to 12 months, for example, how realisable are those [plans]?

"Equally, community development projects where new buildings are being constructed, there are ways we can work with the private sector in relation to collaborating with them to see the benefits of youth work.

'Nothing to do'

"So there's I think there's definitely potential there in terms of possible solutions."

Iestyn, 14, attended youth sessions at Perthcelyn Community Centre, in Rhondda Cynon Taff, before it was closed in February.

"When it closed we literally had nothing to do, we're just sat on the steps of our houses doing nothing," he said.

Image caption,
Iestyn (left) and Ieuan (right) used to attend youth sessions at Perthcelyn Community Centre

Ieuan, 15, raised concerns other young people will get bored and resort to anti-social behaviour.

"They either go to mountains and start fires or get into trouble with the police - I'd rather go to the youth [sessions], meet up with friends, talk to people," he said.

The charity Bryncynon Strategy ran the sessions but said it was not stopped because of local council cuts but because it felt being open for just a few hours a week was not a "quality service".

Bev Garside, who was in charge of the charity at the time, said: "To rely on pop-up sessions which only last a couple of hours isn't doing what youth work is supposed to do.

"Youth work is a lot more than just a few activities to distract young people - this is about engaging with young people and dealing with the sometimes very complex issues that they have."

The sessions were partly paid for by funding from the local Communities First group, part of the Wales-wide anti-poverty scheme which will end next year.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council said it was "working hard to find other ways to provide youth services".

Despite concerns, some youth groups in Wales are actually expanding.

Cwmbran Centre for Young People, Torfaen, set itself up to provide alternative learning and later developed a social enterprise arm, with young people gaining experience offering services to the community, while generating money for the centre.

Having several income streams means other important services - like counselling, cooking classes and food banks - all have a secure future there.

Centre manager Leigh Rowland said: "It might be difficult to small organisations to take on our business model, due to lack of resources, but it can be done.

"It does take a long time and a lot of driven people."