Fear youth funds could be axed

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A full-time worker and three part-time staff could be lost if St Mary’s Youth Club were to have vital funding withdrawn at the end of March.

Youth workers at the club have been praised for their ongoing work with young people - including the past number of Saturday nights when the problem of antisocial behaviour and underage drinking has flared in the Meadow Lane/Garvaghy Road area.

Rumours have been circulating that the money is to be axed but Education Minister Peter Weir said this week that no decisions have yet been made.

The funding has been received by St Mary’s for the past four years as part of the ‘extended provision scheme’ and youth worker in charge Nick McConvey explained it was only ever for one year and had to be renewed each time.

He said, “We haven’t received anything formally to say the funding has ended. It is due to run out at the end of March, as has happened in previous years, and we are hoping it will be renewed.

“It has allowed us to have youth workers out on the streets on a Saturday building up relationships with young people. If we were to lose it, it wouldn’t be as easy for us to do the Saturday work.”

Mr McConvey added, “We try to get young people to understand the effects of their behaviour on the community and on themselves. We feel if we build a relationship with them we can support them to move away from antisocial behaviour and to take part in youth groups and activities.”

Both the Education Authority (EA) and the Minister have responded to the speculation on the funding.

Minister Peter Weir said, “I am very concerned at the amount of speculation and misinformation on this issue, in particular, the suggestion that I or my Department has cut funding to these youth services. No funding has been withdrawn, no decision has been taken to remove funding and there are no proposals to remove the funding.”

EA chief executive Gavin Boyd said, “It has been standard practice to place staff employed as part of funded initiatives on ‘protective notice’ until detailed budgets are confirmed. We note that this issue has caused some concern and would like to emphasise that no decision has yet been made in relation to funding for these initiatives nor has any proposal been made to end the funding.”