Transformed Harold Hill teen says youth cuts will ruin lives
- Credit: Archant
“Where are the young people gonna go? They’re going to end up getting arrested and ruining their lives.”
Havering Council’s planned youth service cut carries more weight than most.
He’s been a regular at myplace community centre in Harold Hill since it opened in 2012 when he was spending most of his time getting into “a lot of trouble” with other local children, as a member of the self-proclaimed “Piggie Lot,” named after the “Piggie Park” in Dagnam Park Drive. But since myplace opened, the group has become a crucial part of the community through the youth service.
“They took us in and off the streets,” explained Cameron. “They gave us a chance.”
Together they have run sports sessions, written funding applications, sought CV advice and spoken at Havering Town Hall.
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A “short guide” to the budget cuts on the council website states it will “no longer be providing its own general youth activities,” used by about 1,500, but pass them on to voluntary and private sector groups. More than £100,000 in cuts are proposed by 2018, with management set to be “retendered”.
“I’m a bit gutted,” confessed Cameron, of Straight Road, Harold Hill. “It’s always been here for me, I’ve always had people to talk to . If they cut it I won’t. They [Havering Council] don’t know what it’s like.”
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The enthusiastic youngster was an integral part of the board who campaigned for the new skate facility in the nearby Central Park, and is now working with the council on a new parkour project.
His 22-year-old sisters, Kelsey and Jamie, also used the service, along with Sean Murphy, 29, of Chase Cross Road, Collier Row. They all now volunteer.
For Jamie, who started with the service aged 13, the workers helped her get through anger issues.
“I didn’t want to talk to anybody,” she said. “People who need help aren’t going to get it. The staff are so friendly. They don’t judge us or discriminate against us.
“They helped me look for a job and try and get a career. When I first started I was living at home and they helped me get into independent living.”
Kelsey added: “Kids with bad backgrounds from home come here and get the support they need and feel better about the situation they might be having at home.”
For Sean, the service helped him get out of the house, rather than “staying at home doing nothing”.
“It’s fantastic. You come and get help, support and talk to young people and interact with them. Any problem I had I could come to a youth worker.
“I played games – dodgeball, indoor activities. Talk of it being shut down is devastating for young people and staff. Where are they gonna go? Back to trouble. Harold Hill seems calmer now. It’s the wrong place and the wrong time.”
The group is also keen to highlight the role of the learning disabilities team. Shannon Ramsey, who is organising a petition to save the service, said it is one of the “most diverse” around.
“There is nothing else for them,” she said. “There’s Havering Mind for mental health but a lot of them don’t have mental health issues. It’s going to absolutely ruin the borough.”
The prospect of having no youth service is daunting for 14-year-old Abbi Judd and 15-year-old Catherine Backhurst, both of Dagnam Park Drive.
Catherine said: “Everything is going to get worse. I used to misbehave so much... there will be no one there to help them out. They will be put in prison.”
Abbi added: “All they’re gonna do is moan about crime by kids.”
Cllr Melvin Wallace, cabinet member for culture, said: “The proposals don’t impact on the vast majority of services young people access. These include activities and events that take place in parks, leisure centres, libraries and through Havering Music School.
“The myplace centre will remain open and offer activities for young people and the community.”
‘The kids will be on the street’ - ex Havering youth worker on cuts ‘The kids will be on the street’ - ex Havering youth worker on cuts