Row erupts over youth service proposal in Isle

Liz Redfern
Liz Redfern

A PROPOSED shake-up of youth service provision in the Isle has sparked protests from young people and councillors in Epworth.

Councillors at the Epworth Town Council meeting voiced their concerns that the overhaul will offer no provisions for young people aged 10 to 13.

Representatives of Epworth Youth Club, of which there are several hundred members, also said they were concerned that activities would be taken away under the council plans.

But councillor Liz Redfern, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, made assurances that the authority would be investing money to extend the youth service.

Coun Peter Davies said he felt bitterly let down by the proposals, and added: “We were misled on the last visit by members of North Lincolnshire Council. I am sure we were told no leaders would go, and I am sure we were told there would be plenty of activities for all, and it is not so.”

He told the meeting that Epworth Town Council should not agree with the changes until there was something in the plans for all the children covered under the existing arrangements.

Coun Roz Whittaker added the council has not made it clear enough as to what exactly the plans would mean for the Isle.

She said: “There is lots of misunderstanding, and we do not know what Epworth will get.”

Youth club members who attended the meeting said they were concerned about the type of activities being offered and were uneasy about provision coming from church groups.

They also felt that the numbers able to attend proposed events were limited, and would exclude some of them as a result.

Youth club member Lisa Pickford said: “How would you like it if someone took something that was precious to you?

“Please don’t stop the youth club.”

But Coun Redfern denied the authority had misled the town council and said members were looking at old information.

She sought to give clear and up to date details, while insisting that the service provision would increase.

Coun Redfern told the meeting the council is proposing to increase the youth service budget by £100, 000 to offer a range of activities based around arts, music and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.

Activities would take place over four nights a week, rather than three at present.

It is also proposed to create an area wide youth magazine and to have a team of youth workers to provide outreach to those who may be vulnerable to anti-social behaviour.

She said: “The youth service will go forward with much more choice for our young people. We have listened to young people in designing the new service and will provide what our young people are really asking for and demanding from the service.”

But town councillors remained unconvinced and invited coun Rob Waltham, who is responsible for the youth service, and Susan Twemlow, the council’s assistant director of commissioning and localities, to visit Epworth and explain the plans in detail.