Relief’ over extension for youth funding

Ballykelly youth club leader, Mark Vinnicombe.

Ballykelly youth club leader, Mark Vinnicombe.

Relief has been expressed after “vital” youth funding for programmes in the Roe Valley has been extended.

Proposals emerged earlier this year that financial support awarded under the Extended Provision Youth Work programme was to be withdrawn.

The cuts would have meant youth centres would have funding for programmes such as youth club activities and outreach work.

The proposal would have come into effect today however, in a u-turn, funding has been extended for a three months.

Mark Vinnicombe, leader in charge of Extended Provision and youth club leader in Ballykelly said the funding is “vital” in Ballykelly to deliver activities at the weekends for between 35 to 60 youths.

On hearing the news, he said: “I’m relieved, not so much for me but for the young people.

“This would have been the end of the world for them.”

Mr. Vinnicombe said with the potential for new families with children to move into the area once the new Department of Agriculture headquarters is operational in Ballykelly in 2018, the youth club and all its activities will be an effective resource for young people to mix.

“This is so much more than a youth club. The Education Authority talks about personal development in young people. This helps young people with their personal development, and that’s so important,” he added.

Chairperson of Ballykelly Community and Youth Association, Tina McCloskey said without the funding, there would be nothing for young people in the village at the weekend and believes young people would suffer.

An Education Authority spokesperson said: “In relation to youth initiatives for which funding was due to end on 31 March 2017, we have made funding available until 31 July 2017.

“Youth workers employed by EA have been informed that their contracts have been extended to 31 July 2017.

“Subject to successful applications, funding has also been made available to voluntary youth organisations on the same basis.

“EA recognises the valuable contributions of youth workers and the importance of their work within local communities.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the move “should allow for continuity of services and protection of jobs (including Youth Workers) in the short term. The objective is to maintain existing levels of service provision”.

DUP councillor Alan Robinson said: “Ballykelly is on the cusp of a positive future with the relocation of the DAERA headquarters, and the regeneration of the vast former army base at Shackleton, which will bring with it an influx of new families.

“This will reinforce the need to have a strong youth provision in this locality. The current provision is the only provision in the area delivering a vital service, and catering for over 50 young people on Friday and Saturday evenings. It is well documented that youth services help in assisting our young people to develop as individuals and play positive roles in society.”