Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Youth centre busier than ever despite losing council grant

HENLEY Youth Centre has gone from strength to strength despite losing its county council funding, says the chairman of the

HENLEY Youth Centre has gone from strength to strength despite losing its county council funding, says the chairman of the trustees.

Clive Wilkinson spoke as the Deanfield Road centre launched a weekly activity night for children and young teenagers in association with Henley youth charity Nomad.

Eleven youngsters attended the first session, where volunteers organised games and held a workshop on healthy eating. Future sessions will offer advice on a range of health and personal issues as well as featuring sports and music events.

Mr Wilkinson said: “We had wanted to cater for younger people for a good year or so but were struggling to find the right person to run it.

“We have close links with Nomad so we decided to try things differently and ask if they were willing to step in. It made sense as they also work with young people.

“Hopefully it will lead to more good things in the future.”

The centre, which is run by volunteers and has one full-time youth worker, has depended on the community’s support since Oxfordshire County Council axed its £25,000 annual grant two years ago.

Now Henley Town Council provides £10,000 a year and the rest comes from local charities and businesses including the Rewind Festival, the Chris Ward Foundation, the Rotary and Lions Clubs, the Henley Educational Charity and the Mayor’s Fund. The centre continues to hold drop-in sessions for up to 35 older teenagers on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and hopes to organise more structured activities on the Friday nights.

It has also opened the HOT Frog café in partnership with The Henley College and has arranged joint activities with organisations such as the Henley Youth Festival.

Mr Wilkinson said: “Since the county council stopped funding the centre, it has been used more than ever. There has never been such a pressing need to support young people in Henley.

“We are undoubtedly an affluent town but in many ways that can be harder for young people if they aren’t part of that wealthier group.

“For older youngsters, the job market is not fantastic at the moment so the more confidence we can inspire in them, the better. Considering what we offer to the community, I think we represent extremely good value for money.

“However, relying on volunteers means you can’t always guarantee that people will be available. We’re very grateful to the team we have as we could not have stayed open without them but we do need more people on board.

“We want to work with as broad a cross-section of the community as possible and feel that a few more new faces could bring some fresh ideas to the table.

“So far, the community has been extremely supportive. I think the people of Henley have a good heart when they know you’re in trouble — it’s just a case of getting our message out there.”

For more information, call the centre on (01491) 410836 or visit www.henleyyouth centre.org.uk

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