30 new youth clubs on the way for Doncaster and more to follow

The panel at our round table at The Dome on activities for youngsters
The panel at our round table at The Dome on activities for youngsters
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Doncaster has got 30 new youth clubs on the way under a new scheme - and more to follow.

Doncaster has got 30 new youth clubs on the way under a new scheme - and more to follow.

Riana Nelson and Peter Norman

Riana Nelson and Peter Norman

The progress on the clubs emerged at the latest Doncaster Free Press round table discussion - this week looking at what activities are available for our youngsters in the borough - the first part of which we report today.

A panel of 11 people joined us at the Dome including world boxing champion Jamie McDonnell and MP Ed Miliband.

The panel was: Ed Miliband, Doncaster North MP; John Whiteley, Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust; Andy Hood, Doncaster Children's Services Trust; Phil Bedford, Stainforth Town Councillor; Peter Norman, Expect Youth; Tony Sockett, former Doncaster Council youth work manager, Sally Lockey, Right Up Your Street arts worker; Riana Nelson, Doncaster Council assistant director for youth delivery; Mark Turner, Flying Future; Jamie McDonnell, world boxing champion; Tom Gilbert, Jamie McDonnell Foundation.

How can we get youth centres back into Doncaster's communities?

RN: We did not get rid of youth centres or youth clubs, but we have refocused our youth delivery and the council initiated the set up of the Expect Youth partnership. who are now actively delivering it in our communities, fulfilling the role of what youth clubs used to do. It's our ambition to better that and provide a more diverse and better offering.

AH: If you look at the surveys that have been done with young people about what they want, for their communities, they want safe spaces where they can interact appropriately and they don't have to be youth centres.I think as we move forward we need to think more creatively about what children and young people want in terms of the activities that they access and where they access them.

PN: We've opened lots of new youth clubs in the last 12 months. and we trying to do it in a very structured and safe way. Expect Youth have joined forces with UK Youth and Ambition UK to run a quality mark programme so for instance if you want to open a youth club in Bessacarr, before you join Expect Youth, and get access to funding, you would have to take a three month programme that makes sure you are police checked, that you are safe to work with young people, the premises are safe, there is a health and safety policy in place and then you get access to other volunteers from throughout the borough and the partnership as a whole. Rather than just opening on one night a week, we work to make sure you're opening on the right night and not competing with another local youth club and give you the best service we can.

MT: I think with public sector funding cuts its forced us to think about how we work differently, to still offer youth provision, but to do it in such a way which is different to how it was previously done. Part of the work we are doing is to look at how we engage businesses, so in Doncaster we've had money from Asda and BT to help with youth provision.

PN: We just had the first 30 new youth clubs and we've just submitted the next tranche of applications and we got 29 for the next tranche of groups to go through and our ambition is that by the summer we will have 80 groups that have gone through that quality mark programme and then they can apply to us for up to £1,000 a year towards their youth programme. We want to link that to better educational outcomes. It's not just a case of turn up and play video games, we want to get our partners involved so that we can do meaningful activities that are linked to essential life skills that can help young people.

RN: The partnership is also looking at engaging and supporting people to deliver, so for example if a volunteer falls ill and a youth club can't go ahead without them, and we are supporting them with business applications. The other thing is something people think of youth clubs as buildings, and they're not. There's a perception that when we close a building you close a youth centre. Actually, we're just delivering it in a different way.

AH: A really good example of that is over the summer holidays, historically a high time for antisocial youth behaviour, the Epic team ran a lot of its activities from places like Conisbrough Castle, so there were several days at Conisbrough Castle where fencing and archery were run as opportunities. That's not a youth centre, but it was a beneficial activity for young people to engage with, and Flying Futures have done similar community led outdoor activities so I think it's important that we move away from the idea that buildings and mortar makes a good youth offer. Actually its the engagement and the quality of the provision that's young people receive that's important.

PB: I think you're right, but I think youth clubs are a physical anchor point because one of the things that kids said when consulted was 'let us know what's going on in the community'. They don't always know and they find out after it's happened. It was probably great at Conisbrough Castle but some probably didn't know about it. But if there's a permanent base, some might just drop in there, at some point, just to see what's going on. There is a perception in some communities of a withdrawal, especially by Doncaster Council, so in terms of publicity and getting the message across, we've got to work really hard, because clearly the messaging is going to be, you're closing a youth centre here, Doncaster Council is pulling out, what are we paying our taxes for, so I think you've got to have a balance. In a place like Stainforth, one of the most deprived, that building still being there has been a beacon of hope. Taking it away would not be the end of youth provision, but it would be big sign to local people.

RN: I think it's an interested point about keeping those beacons in communities and I think simultaneously as keeping them, maintaining them is creating other difficulties and there are places in the community people can drop in, like family hubs.

If you want to set up a youth group, contact Expect Youth on 01302 764 663 or email enquire@expectyouth.co.uk