PARENTS whose children attend Goal Line Youth Centre say they are shocked and disappointed that the centre’s vital services may be forced to cease at the end of October.
The centre, which is unique in that it is attended by disabled as well as able-bodied children, caters for around 200 children and young people, half of them with disabilities.
One full-time member of staff and 10 part-time workers will also lose their jobs if the planned cuts go ahead, as will volunteering opportunities currently enjoyed by around 35 young people.
Funding difficulties are behind the decision, with £60,000 needed a year to cover staffing and running costs.
There are no plans, however, to close the building, based in Chambers Park, with the trustees planning to keep it open for continued use by Portadown Rugby Club.
Parents picking up their children on Tuesday night were informed of the news, with many expressing their shock, disappointment and fears for the future.
A meeting for concerned parents is being held at the centre next Tuesday evening at 7pm, and the cause has been taken up by MLA Jo-anne Dobson as well as MP David Simpson.
Parents of disabled children say Goal Line is one of the few, if not only social outlet, many of them have, and that there is no other similar facility in the area.
Bleary woman Colette Douglas said she was “totally shocked” at the news. Her 17-year-old daughter Nicola, who suffers from cerebral plasy, has been attending Goal Line since she was 12. She said, “She goes on a Monday and Tuesday and absolutely loves getting out and meeting people her own age. The staff there are brilliant. Without it, she’d be stuck in her bedroom.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said the loss of the Goal Line Youth Reach project would be a ‘body blow’ for youth services in Craigavon.
She has written to four ministers asking them to take urgent action to keep the youth centre open. “It is impossible to put a financial figure on the fantastic work which the staff and volunteers at Goal Line have done and are doing in our community,” she said.
MP David Simpson said he had also been contacted by a number of parents whose children attend Goal Line Youth Centre and that he would be doing ‘everything possible’ to see that sufficient funding was sourced to keep the centre’s projects running.
He added, “I hope to meet with the trustees to see what needs to be done to save Goal Line and I will be meeting with parents on Tuesday evening.”