GOAL Line Youth Centre has been given a reprieve of at least another month after a campaign to save its Youth Reach project, which caters for able-bodied and disabled children.
Two “very positive” meetings were held in the past week with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) and the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB).
The meetings were organised by Upper Bann MP David Simpson and attended by him and his fellow DUP colleague, the Mayor Carla Lockhart. Also in attendance were two parent representatives, a member of Goal Line trustees and a representative from Craigavon Borough Council.
Cllr Lockhart said, “We were given a clear commitment by the SELB that they would look at the package of money and increase it. The health trust has also agreed to look at its funding and to give practical support as well.
“Craigavon Borough Council is also lending support. This is a unique service to the wider community. It’s a place where children with special needs can interact and it’s a project that we want to see continue.”
A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said, “We have written to Goal Line with a proposed solution and to offer them support to secure their long term sustainability. As we know how much our young people enjoy attending the centre and how much their families value Goal Line, we were disappointed to hear that the service may no longer be available.”
A spokesperson for the SELB said the board provided annual funding of around £8,000 a year for infrastructure and part-time leadership costs, as well as funding youth intervention projects and the summer scheme. He added that “following a very positive meeting the SELB is reviewing the funding”.
Parent representative Anthony McGrath described the meetings as extremely positive and said that fundraising was continuing in earnest with many parents making contributions.
A craft fair and tea and coffee afternoon will be held on November 3 at Goal Line from 12 noon until 2pm, and the senior youth group will be holding a sponsored ‘Stay Awake’ overnight on Friday to Saturday, November 1-2.
He said, “Funding applications are also being made to different organisations and we are trying very hard to get core funding stabilised so we can progress and develop the club.”
The drive to save the project was begun by parents last month after an announcement that the project would end on October 31.
Peter Thompson, chairman of the trustees, said the project would stay open for at least another month “as we have received a promise to underwrite the running costs in November if not enough funds are raised”. He said the response to fundraising efforts had been very encouraging with over £2,000 raised in just one week by parents and himself.
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has expressed her disappointment at the First and Deputy First Ministers’ failure to respond to a written question regarding the future of youth services at Goal Line.
The MLA, who tabled the question on October 3, said, “This is a wholly inadequate response to the urgent needs of children and young people in Craigavon and I have written again to ask when this question is likely to be answered.”