Growing dream for Drop Inn

A POPULAR centre in Belper could achieve its dream if Derbyshire County Council goes ahead with plans to “significantly reduce” its youth service, it says.

The Drop Inn youth organisation, which is a thriving outlet in the town, says it could actually expand its services into the villages surrounding Belper.

Under the council proposals, the authority would no longer provide “frontline activities” for teenagers, including youth clubs. These would be provided by the voluntary, community and independent sectors, under the council’s proposals.

Instead, the council would set up a youth activities grants scheme to support new projects and the groups that would be delivering them.

Andrea Fox, senior manager of the Drop Inn, said the changes proposed by the council would put the Derwent Street centre in a strong position.

She said it would give the centre more potential to get extra funding as it could apply for a council grant.

“We have never relied on the council,” said Andrea. “We get support from the council, but not in the form of money.

“We have never relied on one type of funding and we have survived for 11 years so far. None of our staff are paid. We are independent and will still be if these changes are brought in.

“What it will do is enable us to reach out into the community. We will be able to reach more young people and give them more opportunities. Some rural villages have no provision at all. Our dream is to be able to work in small villages as outreach and engage with young people.”

The centre currently relies on cash from local organisations like Rotary and churches.

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County council proposals to axe front-line youth activities, which costs £2.2 million a year and employs 157 people, were discussed on Tuesday.

Last year, one third of Derbyshire teenagers regularly took part in activities - 70 per cent of which are run by voluntary, community and independent sector organisations.

Labour councillor Alan Charles said: “Young people are facing the highest unemployment rates in decades, the trebling of university tuition fees, the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance and in Derbyshire are having to pay more for public transport because of the b_line cuts. They now face the loss of youth services, which provide access to a wide range of social and cultural activities, health advice and general support.”

The council says it will continue to support vulnerable young people and families facing difficulties. It plans to set up a Youth Activities Grants scheme for voluntary, community and independent groups.