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Major youth project launched by community budget group

Thursday, 6th June 2013.

The first fruits of the idea of bringing together all Haverhill's service and facility providers in one forum were seen today at the launch of two major projects.

ONE Haverhill unveiled plans for a unique youth project for the town which has been made possible by the collaboration between local authorities, businesses, education, and other partners.

The Haverhill Community Budget, one of 12 pilot projects set up by the Government, set out to achieve change for the town initially in two areas - better opportunities for our young people and improving the physical environment in the town, all priorities decided on by extensive community engagement with local residents last summer.

Looking at ways to use resources already allocated to the town in a way that local people want them to be used is at the heart of the community budget plan.

After research into what finances are allocated to Haverhill, ONE Haverhill, which does not hold a budget for the town, has pooled these resources 'virtually' and worked with organisations including local authorities to prepare a community budget plan.

Last year it identified 66 different services delivered in Haverhill in the two priority areas - youth opportunities and the physical environment.

It alsdo identified that of around £48million spent in Haverhill by the three councils - county, borough and town - each year, eight per cent (£3.8million) was spent on these areas.

It then worked on refocusing some of this to get the best results.

This re-allocation of resources was then approved by the organisations which hold the funding.

What started as a reasonably modest aim of creating an additional ten apprenticeship posts in the town over the next year has developed into a plan to open a 'One-Stop Shop' for the young people of Haverhill incorporating career development, youth leisure activities and access to youth services.

This has been made possible by the collaborative nature of ONE Haverhill. Job Centre Plus has committed £50,000 to support a new post of youth skills manager, recruited this week, who will initially work from West Suffolk College’s LEAP Centre on Haverhill High Street and Suffolk County Council is providing a £5,000 project budget.

Haverhill Town Council has committed to running a venue which will house activities for young people (what used to be called a youth club) - £230,000 for the first year and £80,000 per year after that.

The £50,000 in community grants which One Haverhill administers for St Edmundsbury Borough Council is being aligned to the Haverhill Community Budget Plan priorities.

The ‘One Stop Shop’ would be a venue that provides youth activities careers and employment advice, training and other activities all in a single place.

It will be open to all young people in Haverhill and will also provide targeted help for vulnerable or disengaged young people.

Reporting to the ONE Haverhill Board, the youth skills manager will be responsible for pioneering a business and education partnership to create more apprenticeships, traineeships, work experience placements, mentoring and other workplace training in the town.

A programme of events to give inspiration, experience, guidance and advice is also being developed.

Sarah Howard, vice-chair of ONE Haverhill Board and a member of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said: “There is already a great deal of good work going on in the town in various different guises.

"The aim of the youth skills manager is to bring all the work together and improve the prospects of our young people. Whether a young person wants to become an engineer, lab technician or chef we want them to be able to make informed choices and work with them to achieve their goal.”

Residents also wanted to see the quality of roads and pavements improved. To tackle this the community budget proposes to improve communication between residents and local authorities including using an online website called ‘Fix My Street’ (www.fixmystreet.com) to report issues promptly and enable the public to track progress.

Residents without computer access will be able to access the site online through public facilities including the Arts Centre and other venues.

During ONE Haverhill’s research and consultation they identified that many people in the community were happy to help in reporting problems or doing minor repairs such as fixing a broken sign or cutting back shrubbery.

Suffolk County Council has pledged £26,000 to support this element of the community budget.

Working with Community Action Suffolk (Volunteer Haverhill) ONE Haverhill is therefore recruiting a network of community ambassadors to be the eyes and ears for their streets and where they want to carry out minor repairs and improvements themselves.

They stress this is not about the community replacing the work of the council but about improving communication and giving people permission, tools and training where they want it.

Anne Gower, chair of ONE Haverhill Board, said: “I think this is a positive step forward for the town which will impact on its future economic and social development as we bring young people through with the appropriate life and academic skills to make informed career/life choices."

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department Communities and Local Government Don Foster visited the town to see progress on the community budget plan in November.

He said: "I have been very impressed with the approach and achievements of ONE Haverhill as one of my Department’s 12 Neighbourhood Community Budget pilots.

"The aim of these pilots was to show that decentralising control over the design and delivery of local public services to neighbourhoods has the potential to improve the quality of those services, make them more responsive to local needs, increase user-satisfaction and reduce costs - getting ‘more and better for less’.

“I am delighted that today ONE Haverhill is launching plans for a new and unique youth service for the town to help young people get local jobs.

"It is fantastic to see the public sector, community and business coming together to improve things for their youngsters.

"It's also great to hear about the network of community ambassadors which are being recruited to keep Haverhill looking at its best - local people taking control of their neighbourhood are what Neighbourhood Community Budgets are all about."

Mr Foster was unable to attend the launch because he was visiting another pilot project which has shared ideas with Haverhill, at Ilfracombe in Deven.

A representative of his department attended and brought his message, although she arrived after the launch, due to travel difficulties.

Haverhill's MP Matt Hancock said: “I was delighted that the Government chose Haverhill as one of only 12 places in the country to pilot the new community budget programme and I think it is great that ONE Haverhill has chosen to invest in our young people.

"Ensuring that young people in Haverhill have the skills they need to fulfill their potential is something I am hugely passionate about. It is an investment that will pay itself back many times over.

“I would also like to encourage people to make use of the new ‘Fix My Street’ website to report areas needing repairs. I look forward to thanking the new community ambassadors who will be on the ground, making the system work.”

Haverhill Online News

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