Six community youth workers to be dispatched across the district

JPCT 010313 Youth workers, HDC offices. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 010313 Youth workers, HDC offices. Photo by Derek Martin

Provision for youngsters in the Horsham district has been saved from the brink just months after funding was withdrawn from six of the area’s seven youth clubs.

A trailblazing shake-up by Horsham District Council (HDC) has paved the way for local authorities across the country to adopt the same model.

This week Clare Ebelewicz, senior youth and older persons officer, revealed that funding for six community youth workers has been secured.

The astounding achievement comes after months of hard graft from Miss Ebelewicz, Sue Rogers (Con, Steyning) and colleagues who devised an entirely new approach to youth provision where a number of parish councils and other contributors have scraped together a pot of £153,000 for 2013/14.

Sources of funding include parish council precepts, reserves and grants, Sussex Police, the Rotary Club, Saxon Weald, HDC and Horsham Matters.

Dozens of meetings took place in 2011 where the duo told more than 50 stakeholders that the innovative provision could be achieved for 17p a week per household.

The idea went out for a public consultation which was met with overwhelming support.

“It’s been difficult for young people, particularly in rural areas,” Mrs Rogers told the County Times. “There are less bus services, so they can’t get into Brighton or the busier areas, and there’s less opportunities for Saturday work or employment.”

There are more than 32,350 young people in the Horsham district - 60 per cent of which live outside the town.

Miss Ebelewicz said: “Young people are very visible within their community. They’re at the forefront of people’s minds for whatever reason; because they’re standing in the high street or playing fields. They contribute very positively towards the community but people do pick up on times when there are issues. It’s an investment for our community and young people.”

The youth workers - on between £20k to 24k a year and employed by Horsham Matters - will be dispatched across five different clusters in the district to champion young persons’ needs, provide support and engagement, demonstrate good practice and initiate new activities.

Each cluster gets one worker apart from Horsham, which could have two.

The amount of hours they work per week depends on the area.

HDC and Horsham Matters hope to have the employees in action by June this year.

Around this time last year this newspaper reported that West Sussex County Council announced it was to withdraw funding from six of the district’s seven youth clubs in a bid to save £2million by March 2014.

HDC fought hard against these cuts, but then approached it as a blessing in disguise.

Mrs Rogers said: “We wanted to get away from the county council model and look at a more holistic approach.”

Buildings were not a top priority. Miss Ebelewicz wants the youth workers to go wherever the youngsters are - whether that’s the bus station or skatepark - and says buildings, though important, will follow as and when.

The officer says she is ‘elated’ that HDC have been approached by Hampshire County Council after the success of her model.

It could pave the way for local authorities across the country to adopt it.