Fears youth club closure may lead to higher crime

10:05 14 April 2014

Archant

There are fears that criminal damage and antisocial behaviour could increase if Exmouth’s youth club is closed.

That’s the concern of the East and Mid Devon Community Partnership (CSP) – a group of agencies that work together to try and reduce crime and disorder in the district.

Kevin Finan, the chairman of the CSP, was giving the organisation’s response to cuts being proposed by the county council to the youth service.

It is feared that axing £1million from young people’s services will threaten the county’s 34 youth centres.

County Hall could cease running such centres in the hope that they will be taken over by other organisations.

Around 60 staff could lose their jobs, with volunteers being expected to step up to the plate.

Mr Finan outlined his concerns to John Hart, the leader of the county council, which along with Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and East Devon District Council, is a statutory partner of the CSP.

He said: “We wish to express our deep concerns at the impact these changes will have on the work of the CSP. Youth centres have fantastic attendance with around 50 young people attending every evening session.

“This equates to a lot of young people who will be without a replacement provision should the youth centres close.”

He said that while the county council suggested that the buildings could be offered to voluntary groups, the reality of finding enough volunteers was ‘extremely unlikely’.

He said he was also concerned about young people who had left school but were not attending college slipping through the net.

At a town council meeting last month, Exmouth youth worker Barry Trivett said that in the summer months youth workers targeted up to 300 vulnerable young people on the streets every week.

Mr Finan added: “There are real concerns that left with no positive activities the young people who currently access the facilities and support within the youth centre will be left vulnerable and at a loose end.

“This may well lead to an increase in antisocial behaviour and criminal damage.”

Exmouth councillor and CSP deputy chairman Steve Gazzard said: “I fully endorse these concerns. I understand that the consultation period for the youth service has been extended until June. I just hope the county council listens.”

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