The history 2008 to 2019 . . .
The SNYE charity is the culmination of more than ten years work in South Northants. Local youth work went into decline after the local authority’s countywide ‘Youth Service’ was decommissioned in 2006-7. Staffing was cut, youth centres closed and the service delivery was contracted out to the voluntary sector. These contracts were short term and decreased in value until council funding ended in 2015-16. The impact was severe on the youth organisations involved, these included YMCA, Service Six, NVYA and NAYC. One organisation closed, one moved its office out of the county, one ended local youth work and another organisation closed a key section of work.
Before the youth funding stopped, these youth organisations were sustaining youth provision and making a positive difference in young people’s lives by working together within the local communities. Examples of this work include a Youth Café1 opened in Towcester in 2008 and then in 2011 a second Youth Café opened in Brackley.
1a Youth Café is a dedicated youth centre for young people, similar to a youth club but with access to services as well as activities and the young people help to run the centre.
Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC) was one of the contract holders commissioned by the local authority to develop youth activities, engage young people and provide training to the voluntary sector. NAYC was impacted by loss of funding; and closed their Schools work and lost most of their Area workers. Despite the cutbacks NAYC continued to support local youth clubs and activity groups across the county. In the South Northants area, NAYC were supporting over 40 groups at the peak but unfortunately this was not sustainable, and the current number of groups is much less.
In 2015 NAYC helped set up a new ‘Youth Strategy Forum’ in Towcester to support the local youth provision that was struggling through lack of community volunteers and required vital funding. The new Forum invited people and groups who provided activities for young people in the area to get together, share their work and discuss support needs. Regular meetings started and the members agreed the Forums purpose: “To Champion and Promote all youth provisions in Towcester within the community and councils ensuring young people in Towcester receive services that meet their desired needs.” The Forum grew in members to represent over 30 local groups. Together they organised two showcase events in 2016 and 2017 at Sponne school so that young people and parents could see the variety of activities available. The Forum also conducted a community survey and ran a successful ‘Quiz Night’ to raise funds.
Around the same time, organisational changes were happening within the local authority. South Northants District Council (SNC) and Cherwell District Council in Oxfordshire (CDC) agreed to merge senior management teams and these councils began a process of combining services to save operational costs. In 2016 the joint Council created two shared services, ‘Leisure & Sport’ and ‘Community Development’ and any support for youth provision would come under these new services. A significant initiative in the change was the new role of young people’s officer. In early 2017 the youth officer joined the Towcester Forum and also started regular meetings with NAYC to discuss the support and development of youth provision in the Towns and across the district.
Soon discussions started around setting up a similar Strategy Forum in Brackley and by May 2017 the Brackley Youth Strategy Forum had set up and new members met for the first time. This new forum was timely as Brackley had recently lost youth provision and there were other challenges affecting local young people. The Hub Youth Café in the town had only just closed after running for 6 years mainly due to lack of funding. At the same time the long promised Skate Park had hit another barrier as no land had been included in the plans. This Youth provision is needed by local young people who consistently spoke out and endured many delays.
Brackley (as with Towcester) is undergoing major housing development. Over 1000 new houses already built (2011-18) bringing new families into the community and young people needing more facilities and services. So, the new youth strategy forum already had an agenda for the members. They also had a working document as the Brackley Community Development Trust (BCDT) formerly a Community association had recently produced a consultation document, ‘A Draft Youth Strategy for Brackley’ that was circulated to a few key people for comment. This document outlined plans for a new Youth Centre, a Skate park and a new Youth Coordinator role to support the work. The Strategy Forum met on a regular basis to plan events. They have represented at community events and organised a showcase event of youth provision at Magdalen School in 2017.
With both Youth Strategy forums working well, they agreed the need for a ‘Youth Coordinator’ role who would help to deliver the groups plans. Funding would be needed and because the Forums were not set up to employ staff, NAYC agreed to employ the Youth Coordinator on a temporary basis and apply for the funding. The SNYE Youth Coordinator started part-time work in September 2018.
The Forums realised they should work towards charitable status to raise necessary funds to expand the work capability, establish key partnerships and develop much needed youth provision. Support for the rural villages across the district was also added to the plans. As a result of these developments, the two youth strategy forums became steering groups and renamed as Brackley Youth Engagement (BYE) and Towcester Youth Engagement (TYE) under a new charitable organisation, South Northants Youth Engagement (SNYE)
In October 2017, the organisation ran its first community event, a ‘Play and Activity Day’, at Brackley Leisure Centre. Further community events ran in Spring and Autumn of 2018-2019 in both Brackley and Towcester. The Trustees agreed a constitution and in January 2019, South Northants Youth Engagement achieved Charitable Status. An ambitious Business Plan set out how the charity would develop the youth provision and services needed by young people in South Northants.
The work continues …