‘Costly’ cuts to service

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A YOUTH worker has warned of a costly future for Thetford on the eve of a host of young people’s services closing.

Mike Wilkinson, a youth worker for Norfolk County Council based in Thetford since 2005, called the slashing of the county’s £4.8 million youth budget ‘short-sighted’ and said the cost for towns like Thetford would be much greater in the long run.

“Adults have a variety of facilities available to them in most communities, whether rural or urban, and these do not have to be supervised.

“What do our young people have, or what will be left for them once the Youth Service has disappeared?” he said.

Services set to go include the Chillout club, support work at Thetford Academy, sexual health advice and individual counselling and support.

The Helping Hands Asperger’s support group and the Young Carers group have also been forced to find new homes.

Mr Wilkinson said there were still those who believed young people should be ‘seen and not heard’ and that the lack of evening activities for young people would lead to them being branded as ‘anti-social’.

He said: “One of the basic reasons that young people are perceived as displaying anti-social behaviour is that their evening activities draw more attention than our daytime activities.

“Just because we may hear people talking outside our window or on the corner of our street, or running past our home or even kicking a ball around on the street is not cause to suggest they should classed as criminals.”

Mr Wilkinson’s criticisms come as Norfolk County Council has announced it has allocated £900,000 to support vulnerable young people.

But the money will not be used to directly provide youth services, leaving youth workers like Mr Wilkinson facing redundancy in May.

A final Youth Award ceremony for people involved in youth service activities will be held on May 6 at the Carnegie Room from 6.45pm.