Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Youth hubs ‘working well’ amid concerns
EDUCATION bosses are examining how well controversial new youth hubs are working a year after they opened.
Seven new youth hubs opened after county council cuts slashed youth centre funding last year to save £4m.
At the time concerns were raised that the hubs – which focus on tackling problems including drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment and truancy – would be hard to get to and that attendance would fall.
Now a group of county councillors have visited the hubs and say they are working well – but some raised concerns they were still difficult for some young people to get to.
The hubs – in Littlemore, East Oxford, Abingdon, Didcot, Bicester, Witney and Banbury –were created in a shake-up of youth services last September that saw local authority funding end for 13 youth centres.
Twelve have stayed open, funded by community projects.
Councillors heard that 2,217 children and young people were referred to services at the hubs between September last year and the end of July, while 3,986 young people have attended open access sessions No comparable figures for attendances before the shake-up were available.
Children’s services scrutiny committee chairman Michael Waine said: “I have visited all seven hubs and the abiding memory I have is the high level of professional commitment of our staff to make early intervention work for families in Oxfordshire.
“This is a new service barely 12 months down the line and we need to see where the big positives are and where we can develop the service.”
Watlington county councillor Caroline Newton praised the new system but questioned how young people from outlying towns and villages would get to them.
Banbury county councillor Ann Bonner said she saw a high level of professionalism and well-attended youth sessions when she visited her local hub.
But she added: “About 20 to 30 youngsters who would have attended previous sessions are still congregating in the town centre.”
Last year, the Allandale youth centre in Burford Road, Carterton, was bought by the town council for £64,000 and the RAF Benevolent Fund pays for youth workers.
Matty Yallop, 18, who works at Funtime play centre in Carterton, was a volunteer at the youth centre and now wants to volunteer at Monday sessions attended by about 35 young people.
He said: “I don’t know much about the hubs but I think you should have youth centres in other towns as well.”
In Wallingford, the town council is building a new £180,000 youth centre on the site of a former church in Wigod Way to replace the previous county council-run centre in Clapcot Way which closed.
Wallingford county councillor Lynda Atkins said: “Kids from Wallingford simply won’t travel to the hub in Didcot. The two towns have very different communities and young people in Wallingford need their own centre, whether it is run by the county council or not.”
The scrutiny committee is preparing a report on the hubs for Louise Chapman, the county council’s cabinet member for children.