John's Club protesters outside County Hall. Picture by Peter Boam.
UPDATED: Thursday, 10:39*PEOPLE with learning disabilities, who have been evicted from a youth club, following the Isle of Wight Council's decision to outsource youth services, staged a protest outside County Hall today (Wednesday).
Island charity John's Club, which supports young people and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities, has been running Saturday and Sunday clubs at Newport Youth Club for several years. The council allowed John's Club to use the St James's Street centre free of charge but has now decided to hand the building back to its trustees.
As previously reported, the council agreed earlier this year it would no longer provide services directly, run youth clubs or employ youth workers, shaving £200,000 off its £943,000 youth service budget. Instead, it is making funding available for community groups and volunteers to take on services.
Executive member for children's services Cllr Richard Priest said: "We first wrote to John’s Club in October, 2013, outlining the building would no longer be available from March, 2014. This date was subsequently extended to the end of July and John’s Club was again advised of this and we are happy to discuss possible future options with the club.
"Due to the council awarding funding to several organisations to provide innovative and exciting youth offers across the Island, the local authority no longer requires the use of Newport Youth Club to provide youth services. The council will be handing the building back to its trustees in the coming months and it is up to them what they wish to do with it."
John's Club founder John Phillips said the charity was a casualty of the council's cost-cutting.
"It's horrible to see the council closing down youth clubs to save money. It's not just us, there are lots of other charities and social clubs that use them. Where are they all supposed to go?" he said.
"They've told us to find somewhere else to go, and we've been desperately looking, but we haven't found anywhere we can afford. We're a small charity and we need to keep our costs down."
Members of the Saturday and Sunday clubs protested at County Hall, along with John's Club staff and volunteers.
*Cllr Priest later amended his statement to say: "Due to the council awarding funding to several organisations to provide innovative and exciting youth offers across the Island, the youth service no longer requires the use of the remainder of the former grammar school to provide youth services.
"The council will need to consider all of the possible options for this part of the building, which includes the youth cafe but we can confirm there are currently no plans to convert the youth centre into offices."