Labour councillors amplify the county’s condemnation of the cuts
Neighbours across Lancashire are banding together to save longstanding youth services from Lancashire County Council’s Valentine’s Day budget.
The proposals, which are set to cut £77m from services to the young, the old and the vulnerable, include the potential closure of family and wellbeing services including one in Ashton, Preston which is nearly 90 years old.
At a campaign rally for parents on January 26, Ashton residents flocked to The Star, which was built in 1930 and refurbished at £50k public expense in 2014. Specialist services for disabled teens run from the centre, as well a holiday food market, after school club and a youth club.
Fiona Lord’s son is 13 and has additional needs. The facilities at The Star provide an ideal setting for the youth group that is run for children and young people like her son. The youth club is run for disabled children and is funded through Lancashire Break Time with contributions from parents/carers – but Lancashire Break Time funding is also at risk.
Fiona said, “If these services are cut the staff and skills that are out there now will be lost forever. Families will lose a real lifeline and, whilst they may be just on the edge of making it all work now, will soon head into crisis. It’s like the council saying it doesn’t care if children and young people with additional needs and their families sink or swim”.
Kellie Dunkley is a mum of three who came to the Star as a child; now her 11 year old attends the youth club on Thursday nights. “They play ping pong with their friends and learn how to cook things like curry. Even if kids don’t get a hot meal at home at least there’s hot toast and tea here once a week. They are at an age when they would start hanging round the streets if there wasn’t a good alternative.”
Tina Walmsley from Fulwood, Preston, visited with her daughter Kaitlyn. She said: “Binning the central Preston Youth Zone was bad enough. But they can’t then go around closing local ones – otherwise kids will have nowhere to go. There’s nothing in Fulwood for kids – I’d bring Kaitlyn here if I could.”
County councillor Gillian Oliver, who represents Ashton, said: “Ashton mums are showing farsightedness and sensitivity, and I wish the Conservative leadership of this council could do the same. They want to see the kind of quality youth services which help young people flourish, and in the end save public funds, not deplete them. We want the Conservatives to do the right thing and save youth services like The Star.”