‘Police will pick up the pieces’ after youth centre closes

Senior member volunteer Chris Moore, area youth worker Penny Fildew and Alan fowler

Senior member volunteer Chris Moore, area youth worker Penny Fildew and Alan fowler - Credit: Archant

A youth worker has warned that ‘police will have to pick up the pieces’ after the closure of Sidmouth Youth Centre - and says he hopes it reopens soon.

Speaking out for the first time since it came under threat, Alan Fowler has looked back on the 37 years he spent steering scores of young adults through adolescence with advice on sex, drugs, bereavements, abuse – matters they would not share with anyone else.

He and the other youth workers also became the youngsters’ friends, and he said the relationships they had forged would be hard to repeat if the centre was taken over.

Devon County Council (DCC) funding cuts spelled the closure of the Manstone Lane hub last Wednesday. The authority has asked community groups to take over the youth provision, and there may be hope for Sidmouth’s centre.

“It’s a sad time,” said the 58-year-old. “It’s short-sighted – the police will have to pick up the pieces.

“Hopefully, it won’t be closed too long.”

The youth centre opened in 1972 and Alan joined four years later, aged 20, after being a ‘right little bugger’ himself.

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He said the sessions have changed, but young people’s needs remained the same.

Alan, who works for the district council’s StreetScene team, regularly gave up three evenings a week to host sessions.

But rather than taking him away from his family, Alan said the experience probably made him a better dad to his two daughters. He enjoyed working with a team of youth workers and volunteers, but then DCC slashed the funding as it looked to balance its books.

However, those in greatest need should still get the help they need.

County councillor Stuart Hughes has been in talks with the YMCA and the Salvation Army about Sidmouth’s centre, with a view to restarting youth provision as early as December.

Alan plans to volunteer his services to whoever reopens it to aid the transition.

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