‘Crime rates will rise and mental health will deteriorate’: Southall voices unite in defense of ‘precious’ youth club threatened with demolition
A teenager has expressed concern and sadness over the proposed “closure” of a “precious” youth club in Southall.
Kari joined the Southall Young Adult Center (YAC) at the age of 15 to meet new people, give back to her community and volunteer.
The now 19-year-old college student described the prospect of the ‘demolition’ of the youth center as ‘unfair to the youth of Southall’.
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Kari said the purpose-built center is a “staple” in the community that is making a “real difference” for children.
The Southall YAC was opened in the 1980s and offers a variety of youth services ranging from mental health supports, tuition fees, sports and access to computer equipment.
The center was forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic in March last year and has not reopened since.
The CEO of John Lyon’s Charity, which supports young people living in north and west London, said the youth center “was at risk of shutting down permanently” with reports that Ealing Council was considering “demolishing and redeveloping the site for housing”.
Two youth centers have already been closed in the district over the past 10 years, according to the charity.
A spokesperson for the Ealing Council told My London that they have yet to make a decision on the youth club. However, activists say the center has been on the council’s asset disposal register for years and is in danger of being demolished.
A petition to prevent the closure of the Young Adult Center has since reached nearly 800 signatures. The Young Ealing Foundation is hoping that number will rise to 1,500 in order to spark debate within the board.
Kari, who joined the center in early 2018, spoke of the “massive impact” the youth center had on him.
He said: “I originally joined YAC to broaden my horizons, meet new people and get involved in my community…
“It was a great space for people to meet, a dedicated space to talk to each other”.
The teenager described himself as a “quiet” person before going to the youth center.
“The YAC has helped me diversify as a person and become a more confident person,” he said.
“Back when I was doing my GCSEs, it was incredibly stressful for me. I took it seriously and it would affect me a lot.
“I would have times when I was weak and I would stay for myself. The YAC allowed me to be sociable and it took me away from exams a bit and allowed me to relax.
While at the youth center, Kari taught classes to young participants and remembers helping a child learn English.
About 59 percent of all Ealing students do not speak English as a mother tongue, according to Ealing Council data in 2012.
“We had a student who had recently moved from Sri Lanka to Southall. I spoke his mother tongue, Tamil, and was assigned to him for a short time, ”Kari said.
“Four months before closing [March 2020], she improved considerably in English and ended up having conversations in English with us.
“She was really attached to the place, you could clearly see her enjoying the sessions.”
According to Kari, this is just one of many examples of children who have been helped by the “cheaper” school fees provided by the YAC.
“Parents wouldn’t have to worry about money for school fees … It’s hard for people with low-income jobs who struggle to pay their rent – which is quite common at Southall. “
The teenager expressed concern over the alleged “closure” of the YAC.
“I think this is going to have a huge impact on Southall. The YAC felt like a hub for clubs, a space where people could go and visit whenever they felt they needed some free time.
“Taking that space away leaves a blank space in Southall, it doesn’t look right, it’s not fair to the young people of Southall.”
Lily, an Ealing Young champion for the Young Ealing Foundation, also spoke about the impact the youth center has had on the community.
“It’s a social center, kids go there when their parents are not at home to play football or socialize with other people outside of the school environment,” said Lily.
“I think a lot of people have forgotten that school shouldn’t be a child’s only social interaction and that they should have time apart from school and home – the YAC provided this source, so it’s not right to revoke that, especially now.
“It is an essential pillar for all the different social issues. It is a haven of peace, no matter what they are going through.
According to the Young Ealing Champions, a poster appeared in the YAC in 2019 detailing how the center was to close.
The poster read: “We regret to inform you that the Young Adult Center is potentially at risk of closing at the end of October 2019.”
Dr Lynne Guyton, CEO of John Lyon’s Charity, added: “The YAC has been a safe space and community for many young people in Ealing, but the youth club is now in danger of closing for good.
“We refuse to stand idly by and let this happen and urge the Council of Ealing to reconsider their decision to demolish the YAC. We invite them to work with John Lyon’s Charity and other funders to make it one. thriving community center. “
The CEO said the closure of youth clubs had a “direct correlation” with student exclusion and youth violence, adding: “It’s not rocket science, youth clubs provide a safe space; the importance of youth work cannot be underestimated.
The Young Ealing Foundation, an organization that “brings together the public, private and voluntary sectors to bring positive change for young people”, also said it had a business plan to make Southall Youth Center “self-sufficient” in the next 3 months. years.
Elly Heaton-Virgo, Executive Director of the Young Ealing Foundation, spoke about the impact closing the YAC would have on the community.
She said: “Crime rates will increase, the [education] the achievement gap will continue to grow and mental health supports will not be available to children and youth when they need them.
“We would really love to work with the board on this, we know the board has been under tremendous pressure to balance their books every year. We know they are under stone and in a hard place.
She added: “We want the board to come together with our thinking so that [we can] show them how [the YAC] could be for the community without having to make it an all-out fight. “
A spokesperson for the Ealing Council said: “We know how valuable youth services and youth centers are to young residents and no decision has yet been made on the future of this service. All options are currently under review for the site and we are meeting with John Lyons this month to discuss his proposals in detail.
“We are currently considering how these services can be offered in the borough in the future to ensure that the needs and requirements of the communities they serve continue to be met.
“Young people have already provided valuable feedback on what future services should look like and this will be an important part of future plans and part of any wider consultation process.
“The services offered by the YAC are not only building based, it is a collaboration with other charitable and voluntary services for young people, as well as with the council and we will be looking at how best to support this at the same time. ‘to come up.”
Petition to “Prevent the closure of Southall Young Adult Center” is available here.
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