Opened in 2017, The Hive provides a 365-day-a-year lifeline for thousands of Wirral youngsters but now its council funding may be slashed by £200,000. Tony McDonough reports
A Wirral youth charity that has provided a “lifeline” for young people across the borough during the COVID-19 pandemic faces having £200,000 slashed from its annual budget.
Launched in 2017, The Hive Youth Zone in Bright Street in Birkenhead, has recorded 250,000 visits from young people accessing its services. It caters for young people between the ages of eight and 19 (up to 25 for people with a disability).
Through its work it has raised aspirations, improved health and wellbeing, enhanced prospects and increased the confidence and self-esteem of young people. It has also won praise from Merseyside Police for its efforts in reducing crime and antisocial behaviour.
During the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a surge in the number of young people experiencing mental health issues and The Hive has provided a vital lifeline 365 days of the year.
However, with Wirral Council now under significant pressure due to the pandemic it is considering cutting the annual funding it give to The Hive by half – from £400,000 to £200,000. This will put at risk a significant amount of the centre’s work.
The Hive is asking the council to reconsider its proposal claiming such a cut would represent a false economy. Via its collaborative private-public funding model and evaluation it has shown that every £1 invested by the council is worth at least an additional £6 for the young people of Wirral.
Before makes its final decision the council is asking for the views of the public on its budget proposals and The Hive is asking the Wirral community to support its push to ask the council to rethink the cut to the budget.
The Hive chief executive Stuart Barnes said: “Wirral’s young people need our support now more than ever. By working in partnership with the council, The Hive has been able to provide a vital lifeline for young people, providing thousands with engaging and positive activities, alongside targeted projects such as mentoring, school holiday clubs and employability support.
“Access to trained and trusted youth workers at The Hive provide young people with support, guidance and a much needed someone to talk to. Our Youth Zone is often the only safe space for some of our most vulnerable young people and we’re deeply concerned about the impact the council’s cuts will have on our members and their families.
“We must work together to make sure their needs are met now, or there will be major costs to health and welfare services in the future. We would urge the council to work with us to find an affordable plan that will ensure our young people get the future they deserve.”
Young people, their parents and the team at the charity are now imploring the authority to reconsider, saying that they give some of the “borough’s most disadvantaged the chance to participate in positive, exciting and constructive activities” which can ‘transform’ lives.
Gill Pleavin, head of youth work at the charity, added: “If support falls away due to lack of investment, there will be serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of all. Since lockdown restrictions began in March 2020, when other services closed, the team at The Hive worked tirelessly to support young people.
“We have seen first-hand that young people have been impacted significantly by COVID, not least in terms of mental health and have recently seen a 100% increase in young people requesting or being referred for one to one mentoring.
“If the proposed cut in funding is approved, it will mean that a significant amount of our work will be at risk and that local young people and their families will be impacted directly.’’
The council’s consultation period is open until Friday, January 22. A public survey can be found by clicking here and the first question is about the £200,000 funding cut to youth services. There is also an online ideas board for additional comments and feedback.