Youth projects launch petition to council over funding fears

Youth groups in Sunderland have launched a protest petition amid fears that the city council may pull funding for projects which help thousands of youngsters.

Monday, 23rd January 2017, 5:00 am
Project co-ordinator Ruth Oxley at Southwick Neighbourhood Project

Groups who provide activities and support for youngsters rely on money from Sunderland City Council, but the cash could be taken away at the end of the financial year in March due to massive budget cuts.

Youth leaders are now gathering signatures for a petition calling on civic chiefs not to axe the funding and will present their plea to the authority’s full council meeting on Wednesday (JAN 25).

Project co-ordinator Ruth Oxley at Southwick Neighbourhood Project

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Council bosses said today that the authority is “reviewing and re-modelling” many of its services and says it is in discussion with the city’s voluntary sector about the current financial situation.

Ruth Oxley is project co-ordinator at Southwick Neighbourhood Project and says that the organisation would have to axe a number of sessions each week should the council funding stop.

“Youth projects work with about 20,000 young people across the city each week so this is going to have a massive impact,” she said.

“Everything will be affected.

Councillor Louise Farthing.

“People trafficking, sexual exploitation, substance misuse, and teenage pregnancy are all things we help to prevent as well as providing screening for sexually transmitted infections so it will make it much more difficult.”

Sunderland City Council has said it needs to save tens of millions of pounds from its budget in the coming years due to Government-imposed cuts.

“I do sympathise with the council and the difficult decisions that they have to make at the minute,” added Ms Oxley.

“But I don’t see why the children of the city should have to suffer.

Project co-ordinator Ruth Oxley at Southwick Neighbourhood Project

“They are not responsible for any of the financial problems which are causing the service to be cut and they will miss out.

“Our project will continue to exist because we currently have funding from Children in Need and other bodies.

“But some projects will be at risk unless further funding is sought.”

Portfolio holder for children’s services at Sunderland City Council, Councillor Louise Farthing, said: “The council is continuing to review and re-model many of its services under the Government’s austerity programme.

Councillor Louise Farthing.

“We greatly value the contribution of voluntary projects such as Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project to our community, and these are a hugely important part of the wider youth offer in Sunderland.

“There has been discussion with the voluntary sector about the current funding position and how we might support them to sustain provision for our young people going forward.”

Wednesday’s full council meeting takes place the Civic Centre chamber at 6pm.