Charity that gives young people ‘vital lifeline’ urges council to reconsider planned £200k cuts

A Wirral charity which gives young people a ‘vital lifeline’ has urged the council to reconsider planned £200,000 cuts to its budget. 
 
Wirral council is currently consulting on proposals for the next financial year, including plans to reduce its annual contribution to The Hive Youth Zone. 

The Hive Youth Zone, on the corner of Bright Street & Exmouth Street, Birkenhead.

The charity, which is based at a purpose-built centre on Bright Street, provides activities and experiences for young people from across the borough. Since opening in 2017 the Youth Zone has had over ¼ million visits from members age 8 – 19 (up to age 25 for young people with a disability) and has raised aspirations, improved health and wellbeing, enhanced prospects and increased the confidence and self-esteem of young people.  

birkenhead.news visited The Hive Youth Zone last year when local Olympic boxer Natasha Jonas visited and enthralled the kids there with her life story. On this visit, our reporter witnessed first-hand how much the kids enjoy the company of their friends in a safe and exciting environment, showing just how essential and invaluable the centre is.

The latest budget proposals would see the council’s contribution to the charity reduce by half from £400,000 to £200,000 which would have a significant impact on the activities and services offered by the Youth Zone.

Young people, their parents and the team at the charity are now imploring the authority to reconsider, saying that they give some of the ‘borough’s most disadvantaged the chance to participate in positive, exciting and constructive activities’ which can ‘transform’ lives. 

Hive Chief Executive Stuart Barnes said, “Wirral’s young people need our support now more than ever. 

“By working in partnership with the council, The Hive has been able to provide a vital lifeline for young people, providing thousands with engaging and positive activities, alongside targeted projects such as mentoring, school holiday clubs and employability support.

“Access to trained and trusted youth workers at The Hive provide young people with support, guidance and a much needed someone to talk to. Our Youth Zone is often the only safe space for some of our most vulnerable young people and we’re deeply concerned about the impact the council’s cuts will have on our members and their families.

Stuart Barnes, Cheif Executive of the Hive Youth Zone.

“We must work together to make sure their needs are met now, or there will be major costs to health and welfare services in the future. 

“We would urge the council to work with us to find an affordable plan that will ensure our young people get the future they deserve.” 

The Hive has benefited from a ‘collaborative private-public funding model’ and evaluation has shown that every £1 invested by the council is worth ‘at least an additional £6 for the young people of Wirral’. 

Gill Pleavin, Head of Youth Work at the charity, added, “If support falls away due to lack of investment, there will be serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of all. Since lockdown restrictions began in March 2020, when other services closed, the team at The Hive worked tirelessly to support young people and I am very proud to say that we continued our 365-day offer of support throughout the pandemic. We have seen first-hand that young people have been impacted significantly by Covid, not least in terms of mental health and have recently seen a 100% increase in young people requesting or being referred for one-to-one mentoring. If the proposed cut in funding is approved, it will mean that a significant amount of our work will be at risk and that local young people and their families will be impacted directly.’’

Mollie is one of the young people who attends The Hive and says she has gained a lot such as support and friendship there. She made an empassioned plea on Facebook on the group called Wirral Gossip Original; “I would like to ask a massive favour!! You may well be aware that Wirral Council are proposing a range of budget cuts from April.

“These include a reduction in funding for youth services of £200,000. What the information published by the council does not include however, is that it is proposed to cut this entire amount from The Hive.

“The Hive has done a lot for me and many other young people and we need to get our voices across to stop this from happening!! Since 2017, I have had countless of opportunities, from singing in front of Prince Harry and 4000 other people in the Royal Albert Hall to them helping me get an apprenticeship, setting me up to become a teacher!!

“Not only that, they adapted their offer to a virtual youth zone over lockdown supporting hundreds of young people and families with isolation packs and food hampers. I can speak for many young people who have been helped and supported by the most amazing staff, the advice and endless support we get is incredible, it needs to be shown that it’s more than just a youth hub, this is a place that CHANGES LIVES.”

The Youth Zone is asking for support from the local community as they ask Wirral Council to reconsider their proposal. The consultation period is open until 22nd January – a public survey can be found at www.haveyoursay.wirral.gov.uk and the first question is about the £200,000 funding cut to youth services. There is also an online ideas board for additional comments and feedback.

The direct link for the form is here and you will need to register before you can have your say.

Main Image: A young person enjoys her time at The Hive Youth Zone. All images credit: The Hive Youth Zone

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