Concern as youth club hit by £51k funding cut

Concern as youth club hit by £51k funding cut

24 November 2021

A NUMBER of youth clubs across the district have had their finances slashed by the Education Authority which has rolled out a controversial new funding model.

Six clubs based in Downpatrick, Crossgar, Ballyhornan and Strangford have had their funding reduced by a combined total of almost £51,600.

The Patrician Youth Club in Downpatrick has had its funding reduced by £24,766, with St Colmcille’s Youth Club based at the Ballymote Sports Centre on the outskirts of the town having its funding cut by almost £10,000.

Elsewhere, Strangford’s Inverbrena Youth Club’s funding has been reduced by £5,812, with Ballyhornan Youth Club losing almost £5,000 in Education Authority funding.

Funding for Downpatrick Scouts has reduced by £3,671, with Crossgar Youth Club’s funding cit by £2,382.

Across the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area, the total loss of funding for 16 youth clubs is £113,838 with the province-wide total £330,000.

For its part, the Education Authority has confirmed that it administered Department of Education funding for both regional and local voluntary youth providers in line with the Priorities for Youth Policy. 

In addition, it said opportunities for funding under the new scheme are based on the assessed needs of children and young people and made available on the Education Authority

Youth Service funding webpages.

A new funding stream for youth groups has also been made available.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath has expressed his “deep concern” at the financial hit local groups have received and is to raise the issue on the floor of the Assembly and again with Stormont education minister Michelle McIlveen.

“This is matter which is of the utmost importance to me and has given me great concern,” he said.

“Having worked in the youth sector for a number of years before entering politics and continuing to volunteer, I see the tremendous work our youth centres are doing and have been doing for so many years.”

Mr McGrath said that after being informed that a new funding stream was being developed for youth services, he raised the matter with Ms McIlveen to determine what the reductions would be and where increases would be.

He declared: “I was given clear assurances in the past from the Education Authority that there would not be reductions to youth service funding.

“However, I was horrified to learn that with the new funding model there has been a reduction of over £466,000 to youth services right across the north and approximately 25% of this (£113,838) was a loss to services in the Newry, Mourne and Down District.”

Mr McGrath said that while there have been increases in youth service funding across the country which are to be welcomed, some areas have not taken as big a hit as Newry, Mourne and Down.

He explained that while the total financial loss for youth groups across the district is £113,838, the combined increase they have received under the new funding stream is just £23,808, representing a net loss of just over £90,000.

Confirming that he will be raising the issue at the Assembly and with Ms McIlveen, Mr McGrath said the funding loss will have been a huge blow to the delivery of essential youth services across the district.

He added: “We need to know that support is there for youth organisations in Newry Mourne and Down who have suffered such a huge loss to their funding. I want these services to be assured that I am with them and working for them at the heart of government.”