North Norfolk youths to benefit from cash boost

A Big Screen Youth Project is among eight new schemes for young people to be set up in Norfolk.

Grants worth tens of thousands of pounds have been awarded to a variety of initiatives as the county council aims to ease the impact the cutting of youth services will have on youngsters.

The Youth Innovation Fund, administered by Norfolk Community Foundation, has so far given �35,000 from a total pot worth �150,000 to organisations planning to set up new projects.

Among the recipients is The Benjamin Foundation which was awarded just under �5,000.

The county-wide charity, which is based in North Walsham, hopes to launch a six-month Big Screen Youth Project with the cash, making use of the new �5.3m Atrium community building which opened next to North Walsham High School in September.

Sharon Matthews, director of operations with the foundation, said they aimed to combine usual youth club activities with weekly film showings in The Atrium's 200-seater new cinema, which has an adjoining cafe.

Ms Matthews said they would be recruiting one person to help run the weekly project alongside youth workers and any volunteers.

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It was expected to launch on Monday or Tuesday evenings later this winter, or in the early spring and was likely to attract a core age group of 11-to-16-year-olds.

When term resumed next month, organisers would be asking young people about other activities they would like to see provided as part of the project, she added.

'The need for quality youth work intervention hasn't gone away with the withdrawal of local authority funding. It's still there and the voluntary sector is stepping in,' said Ms Matthews.

'North Walsham is as deserving as several other market towns where there is no longer youth provision. We would love to help them too but North Walsham has the advantage of this new and fantastic facility at The Atrium.'

East Norwich Youth Project, Hub Community Project in Wymondham, Mancroft Advice Project, in Norwich, Creative Arts East, North Breckland Youth for Christ, North Lynn Discovery Centre, and Thalia Theatre Company, Norwich, will also set up new schemes with the grants.

A further �42,000 has been handed out by the council's Youth Transition Fund to help existing projects struggling in the tough economic climate.

The money, part of a �250,000 pot, hopes to support the organisations as they look for long-term funding solutions.

It follows the decision by the county council to de-commission its youth service completely as part of its budget cuts.

Instead, the authority is setting up seven Youth Advisory Boards in each Norfolk district which will have �45,000 to spend on schemes in their areas.

The Youth Innovation and Youth Transition Funds aim to bridge the gap as the changes come into effect.

Alison Thomas, county council cabinet member for children's services, said, although no longer able to deliver youth services itself, the authority was committed to working with other groups to ensure young people could access activities, support, training and guidance in their communities.