Plan to open youth centres despite county council cuts

Bicester Advertiser: The Oxfordshire Association for Young People has been relaunched as Oxfordshire Youth. Pictured, from left, is chief executive Paul Lawrence with creative display organisers Emmy Tulane-Cassia and Laura Sewell, and  Jason Edmunds one of the speakers Buy this photo The Oxfordshire Association for Young People has been relaunched as Oxfordshire Youth. Pictured, from left, is chief executive Paul Lawrence with creative display organisers Emmy Tulane-Cassia and Laura Sewell, and Jason Edmunds one of the speakers

A YOUTH organisation has revealed how it plans to refocus its efforts in the wake of cuts to council services.

The 65-year-old Oxfordshire Association for Young People, which relaunched as Oxfordshire Youth on Monday, plans to pilot a new string of youth centres around the county.

Chief executive Paul Lawrence said he was currently in talks with about nine councils and villages about getting the project off the ground.

He said: “We hope the first new centre could be set up by April and by September we would be looking to approach more communities to see if there is more we can do in partnership.”

Mr Lawrence said that despite cuts to council funding, groups like Oxfordshire Youth still had to provide good quality services for young people.

He added: “There is a need for giving them something to do and somewhere to call their own. We can help with that.”

Funding for the new centres would come from a variety of sources, including ‘Big Society’ cash from the Government.

An idea championed by Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron, it aims to encourage charities and private firms to take over services traditionally provided by local authorities.

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Mr Lawrence said that in recent years the organisation had lost contracts from Oxfordshire County Council but still received about £500,000 from central government and money from the Big Lottery Fund.

He added that he had seen an increase in other community groups requiring advice on policy and criminal record checks on volunteers.

Oxfordshire Yout, which is based at Bury Knowle Park, Headington, currently employs about 15 people.

As part of the relaunch, people under the age of 18 will be allowed to sit on the charity’s board of trustees for the first time.

Jason Edmonds, 19, from Banbury, spoke at the official launch evening on Monday night and said it was the beginning of a “new era.”

He said: “Oxfordshire Youth is a vital service for young people because it helps all sorts of people in whatever situation they find themselves.

“This relaunch gives young people a greater chance to participate in the organisation and take part in more activities.”

The group will host the County Youth Awards event on Monday at the New Theatre, Oxford.

More than 1,100 people have been nominated for an award.

The evening is also set to feature entertainment from 11 young county performers.

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