ALMOST 90 people, most of them parents, attended a highly-charged meeting on Tuesday night on the future of Goal Line Youth Centre.
The project which is used by around 200 young people, almost half of them disabled, faces closure by the end of the month if the £60,000 annual funding isn’t found to keep it going.
A number of politicians who attended the meeting, including the Mayor, Councillor Carla Lockhart, MLA Jo-Anne Dobson and MP David Simpson, pledged to do their utmost to retain the service and secure funding, at least in the short term.
The youth centre has been described by parents of children who use it as “unique to the area” and “a lifeline”.
One person who attended the meeting but did not wish to be named said, “Parents were very forthright in challenging the lack of funding. They stressed it was their children’s right to have such a facility - many of them cannot attend normal youth clubs.”
Peter Thompson, chairman of the Goal Line trustees, said that although a solution hadn’t been found, a strategy had been agreed, He said, “A focus group is to be formed to work with the parents, councillors, MLAs and MP David Simpson to urgently seek funding to keep the project going in the short-term and, ultimately, in the long-term.
“It is quite incredible how good the centre is for the kids. The trustees of Goal Line are committed to achieving these goals and continuing to provide this valued service.”
MP David Simpson said it was very emotional to hear at first hand from parents jus how much their children stood to lose if the project ended. He said, “I want to assure the young people, parents, staff and volunteers that I will do everything possible to source and deliver the essential funding for Goal Line.
“I have sought meetings with Craigavon Borough Council and the relevant government departments to ask that they revisit and explore further the funding options and to identify where Goal Line can benefit.”
He added, “I encouraged the trustees to find a way to allow Goal Line to continue for an interim period to allow the time needed to source core funding.
“This is a unique service open to the greater Craigavon area helping so many children and their families. I have been involved for youth work for many years and it would be a travesty to lose this essential provision.”
Jo-Anne Dobson also said she was “moved by the raw emotion of the parents as they spoke so passionately about the staff and volunteers at Goal Line and the dedicated services which their children, many of whom have special needs, receive”.
She added, “Everyone in the room was in full agreement that the service must be retained and as one parent so emotionally said ‘Goal Line provides therapy for my child’. I believe it is morally right for government ministers to support the retention of this important service and will continue to lobby and fight until this is achieved.”
Mrs Dobson told the meeting she had already contacted five different Stormont departments and was writing directly to ministers to ask them to provide the “urgent funding which is required to keep the service running”.
Mayor of Craigavon, Cllr Carla Lockhart said the meeting was an extremely emotional one for parents whose children had benefited from the service for many years. “It demonstrated the level of community will and political will to try and obtain core funding for this project,” she said.
“Goal Line is such a vital service, particularly to children with disabilities and their parents throughout the borough and further afield.
“The news that it has not been able to secure funding has come to light within the past week and is extremely distressing to the families who rely on this service.”
She added, “It is vitally important that we all work together to try and secure funding to retain this essential service for many years to come. I have publically pledged my support to the campaign and will do whatever I can to help. I am in the process of arranging several meetings concerning the matter.”
Cherith Edgar, the centre’s full-time manager, said, “I hope that all the emotion and passion that was demonstrated on Tuesday night will be channelled in a positive way and that everyone unites to ensure the continuation of the project.”
She also revealed that an anonymous donation of £400 for Goal Line had been made through the Facebook site Portadown Cares.
A further meeting for parents will be held on Tuesday, October 16.
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