Sheffield youth club shuts over worker row

Sheffield Futures Co-ordinator Jane Wilson
Sheffield Futures Co-ordinator Jane Wilson
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Charity bosses have closed the door on a Sheffield youth club after protests to reinstate a community worker turned ugly.

Sheffield Futures say a member of staff had a pool ball thrown at them and others have been subject to threats and intimidation in the row over ex-employee Jane Wilson.

Residents launched a petition to get Jane back when she was forced to re-apply for her role and failed to get the job.

The youth worker is a popular figure in the community with decades of experience working with young people in Woodthorpe and surrounding areas. She was asked to take redundancy around 18 months ago but returned to Woodthorpe Youth Club on a casual basis when Sheffield Futures asked her to come back.

Parents and children collected more than 100 signatures on a petition to allow Jane, in her 40s, to return to the club where she began work as a volunteer at the age of 15.

But the actions of some protesters – who blocked an employee from accessing the Chadwick Road centre – has sparked safety fears.

Sheffield Futures chief executive Andy Barrs said: “Feedback from my staff and comments made on this and other social media sites, suggest that young people are being actively encouraged to boycott the club.

“Sheffield Futures has a long and very proud history of supporting young people in the area and I fully recognise that Jane Wilson has been a major contributor over the years, however I’m sure that Jane would not want to see young people on the street at a time when they could be enjoying the facilities and support the club has to offer.

“In light of these developments and, acting to ensure the safety of my staff, I have made the decision to close the club for the time being. We were left with no choice but to close the premises until further notice.”

A letter sent out to residents and youth club users caused further anger in the community.

Donna Pask, youth club user, said: “Sheffield Futures are not listening to the young people’s needs on the estate.

“They also sent a letter to everyone making out Jane moved on and in words that lead you to believe on her own account.

“Crime will again rise on the Woodthorpe as there is nothing for them and they want Jane Wilson back.

The charity stressed that Jane was not sacked, as has been alleged on a Facebook page campaigning to bring her back.

Mr Barrs added: “Sheffield Futures is an equal opportunities employer and operates under strict guidelines to ensure that our interview processes are equitable and fair.

“I accept Jane’s departure from Woodthorpe has been unpopular with some local residents, but the company is not prepared to disadvantage successful candidates.”