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Closure of Whitchurch Youth Centre comes as surprise to residents

THE youth centre at Whitchurch High School has closed suddenly.

The 40-odd members found out about the decision seven days before last week’s closure.

Ararat Church (Photo: John Lord)

Ararat Church, near Whitchurch Common.  (Photo: John Lord)

A replacement weekly session will be provided by YMCA Cardiff at Ararat Church near Whitchurch Common. The previous centre’s youth workers will work as YMCA employees.

The sessions on Wednesday evenings between 6.30pm and 8.30pm will start in the second week of March. Meanwhile, YMCA staff plan to meet with focus groups of young people to discuss what they want in the new provision.

Whitchurch Youth Centre had also hosted Duke of Edinburgh Award groups. They now plan to meet in Gabalfa Youth Centre for their next meeting on Monday.

However the groups are yet to hear whether they can continue at the Whitchurch High School site after half-term.

Last year the council faced fierce opposition for its attempts to make budget savings of £41 million to youth, elderly and library services.

A petition against the closure of Whitchurch Youth Centre was one of many submitted to the council. It had more than 14,000 signatures.

Cardiff Youth Service logo.

The YMCA alternative is a result of Cardiff Council’s new model of Youth Services launched in 2015, which reduced open access centre-based provision and instead focused on a needs-led basis through a grant process.

YMCA Cardiff received a Youth Innovation Grant for youth service in Whitchurch during the second round of bidding last year. In the first round, grants were awarded to various local community groups, as well as Cardiff City Foundation and Ministry of Life.

Whitchurch Youth Centre was located on the Upper School site and had two large social areas, a computer studio, an art room, a music studio, and an information room, as well as a coffee bar with kitchen. The centre also had access to various school facilities, including the gym and minibuses.

Cllr Sarah Merry, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “Our preference was to continue provision from the same venue, but this is a way of providing services that were under threat.

“As a council, we have to change the way we deliver services if we are to continue to be able to provide them, given the difficult financial situation.”

“At least these organisations that receive the Youth Innovation Grant can apply for additional grants to supplement the work they are doing.”

Rhiwbina councillor Jayne Cowan said: “I was advised that the Whitchurch Youth Service Provision based at Whitchurch High School has ceased, with immediate effect.

“This came as a big shock to me. Many residents in Rhiwbina and Cardiff North sent their children to this longstanding and popular club.

“I understand alternative provision will start in March at the Ararat Church in Whitchurch via the YMCA, but I will be writing to the officials to ask for details.

“I am concerned that we have a month with no provision, and no communication has happened with all councillors to my knowledge. I found out thanks to a tweet from ex-councillor Siobhan Corria.”

Her son Ashley Smith, 13, has been a member of Whitchurch Youth Centre since Year 7.

He said: “About 40 people went to the club. It was really good for building character and socialising.

“It was our opportunity to hang out with all our friends, but at the moment there’s none.”

YMCA operations manager Caroline Ryan said: “This will be a positive development. We want to provide a good-quality service and will take the lead from young people.

“If they let us know what they want, hopefully we will be able to provide it.”

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