Families devastated over threat to close group due to funding cuts

Manager Rosie Chitty with Sally-Anne McLean, Elliot and Deborah Hall, Sadde-Kay Anderson and in front, Ruby and Leah McLean at the Park Youth Centre, Sheffield.
Manager Rosie Chitty with Sally-Anne McLean, Elliot and Deborah Hall, Sadde-Kay Anderson and in front, Ruby and Leah McLean at the Park Youth Centre, Sheffield.

WORRIED mums have hit out at potential funding cuts which could force a “lifeline” youth club for vulnerable and disadvantaged children to close.

Members of the Positive Activities SOVA Sheffield - PASS - club and their families were devastated to learn the group could be forced to shut.

In the past it has been paid for using cash from Sheffield Council’s Kids Can Do initiative - a project which supports the development of out of school activities to promote positive outcomes for youngsters aged eight to 13.

But the project has now been put out to tender, meaning it faces competition from a host of other services in order to secure funding.

Elliot Hall, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been attending the youth club in Samson Street, Park Hill, three times a week for the past 10 months - and mum Deborah said the change in the 17-year-old had been remarkable.

“He was suicidal before he started going there,” she said.

“He suffered a lot with bullying at school and this has been the only place he felt he belonged. Beforehand he didn’t like going out of the house, but they have built his confidence up. It’s been a lifeline for him.”

Elliot, who is now studying interactive media at Sheffield College, added: “It’s really upsetting and it seems very unfair.

“I would probably have to move on soon anyway because I am getting older, but I feel even worse for the younger ones who won’t have anywhere to go.”

Ant Hamilton, who also has Asperger’s, has been a regular at the club for the past four years.

The 16-year-old said: “Without it I would just be sitting in my bedroom on my own playing on my X-Box.

“This place has helped me make friends, given me things to do, and build up my confidence. I would be gutted if it closed.”

Mum Kay, from Intake, added: “It’s not only provided him with a social network, but a support network too - I know if he has a problem he doesn’t want to come to me with, he could go to one of the guys at PASS.

“If there were three or four other projects providing a similar service, then we would accept it - we know there have to be cutbacks. But our point is this is the only place for them to go.”

Rosie Chitty, project manager at the SOVA charity which runs the initiative, said the club had made a big difference to a lot of people’s lives.

She said: “It is a fantastic example of how, by enabling access to everyday activities along with some basic help, care and understanding, a massive difference can be made to the lives of some of the most vulnerable and excluded people in our community.”

Tony Tweedy, director of lifelong learning, skills and communities at Sheffield Council, said: “We appreciate some people may have concerns about how the support their families are currently receiving is funded in the future.

“The council is committed to ensuring the most appropriate services that meet people’s needs will continue to be provided.

“The tendering process is still ongoing so to be fair to those organisations that have bid for this work, it would not be appropriate to comment until it is completed. We will then discuss with all bidders the outcome of the tender process and how we can work with them in the future.”