South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has revealed details of the interim youth provision measures it has put in place following its decision, jointly with Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC), to close the Brook Way Youth Club at the end of last month.
Youth workers will be going out onto the streets on three nights a week to engage with young people congregating at places such as the skate park and the Willow Brook Centre.
The street work will be supplemented by six hours of activity sessions each week – including DJ’ing, football and young women’s projects – taking place at Baileys Court Activity Centre and Bradley Stoke Community School.
Catherine Challinor, a full time youth worker for SGC, said the programme would remain in place until Christmas, after which it might be reviewed following feedback from service users.
Having taken the decision, back in July, to close the Brook Way Youth Club, the Councils have now finally opened a public consultation to ask young people which activities they would like to see provided in the local area. The survey, dubbed “the largest, most in depth consultation regarding youth provision in Bradley Stoke” by Mayor Ben Walker in a recent Town Council newsletter, was supposed to start in September but finally got underway on 1st November.
Reasons for closure never properly explained
The reasons for closing the Brook Way Youth Club have not been revealed in any formal documents published by the two councils. The only explanation to surface is in an letter put out by SBCP on 1st August:
“Unfortunately we have been informed that the Town Council and South Gloucestershire Youth Service are not satisfied with the delivery of youth work in Bradley Stoke. We have failed to work with the numbers of young people that they were hoping for, or to engage as fully as they would have liked us to.”
Draft minutes of the BSTC Full Council meeting on 13th July 2011 stated simply that a discussion on “Youth Provision in Bradley Stoke” was “CONFIDENTIAL”. Mayor Ben Walker explained at the subsequent Youth Committee meeting on 15th August that this had been necessary “in order to ensure confidentiality … when people’s jobs and livelihoods are at stake”, referring, it is believed, to the possibility that SBCP might need to make youth workers redundant as a result of the decision.
By the time the minutes came to be approved at the next meeting of BSTC’s Full Council in September, SBCP had notified its employees and begun a formal employee consultation period, but the Council still chose not to release further details in the final version of the July minutes.
A source at SBCP has since confirmed that 13 of its employees (one full-time and 12 part-time) were made redundant as a result of the Bradley Stoke youth work contract being terminated.
The final meeting of the Brook Way Youth Club took place on 20th October, when 70 young people were presented with certificates of achievement.
Shouldn’t consultation have been done first? – asks Councillor
The Council’s decision to close the Brook Way Youth Club before starting a consultation exercise with the young people who attend it was questioned by Cllr Tom Aditya at the Youth Committee Meeting in August. Cllr Aditya, who is also an SBCP trustee, was reminded by Mayor Ben Walker that the agenda item – “Update on Youth Provision in Bradley Stoke” – was “an update, not a discussion”.
The troubled recent history of Brook Way Activity Centre
The youth club’s move to Brook Way in 2009 meant that a number of community hirers were forced to find other accommodation in the town. Once the youth club was up and running, local residents complained of anti-social behaviour, particularly on and around the outside sports court at the centre. Two incidents of suspected sabotage – the cutting of power cables and the felling of a floodlight column – were investigated by police but no charges were ever brought.
The Town Council has now re-opened Brook Way Activity Centre to general hirers, following a £20,300 one-week refurbishment, and is currently offering a 10% discount on new bookings.
Photo: Happier days in 2010, when Councillors welcomed the youth club to Brook Way.
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