Youth work charity set to close after funding slashed
A CHARITY helping young people in Argyll into work could close, with the loss of 16 jobs, if Argyll and Bute Council can’t help save it following national funding cuts.
Over the last 25 years Argyll Training has offered vocational training programmes for young people who face barriers to employment, helping to find them work experience and jobs in more than 300 companies.
Argyll Training’s Peter Darling said the organisation helps on average 35 to 40 young people a year, adding: ‘A lot of youngsters just need that first step on the ladder. At least three quarters go into apprenticeships and employment.’
But recent funding cuts have brought the charity to crisis point. With its reserves depleted and no money in the budget for additional places, it had to close its centres in Rothesay and Campbeltown in the last 12 months, leaving only those in Oban, Dunoon and Greenock.
Mr Darling added that ‘there’s a very strong possibility’ of all of its 16 staff being made redundant.
Managing director Fraser McCowan told the Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee in the Corran Halls on Wednesday last week: ‘Come September we will not be able to continue in our present form. We’re not trying to make money, we’re just wanting to cover the costs of delivering a service. If we do not continue, the chances of someone else coming in will be remote. Once it goes, it’s gone.’
Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee unanimously supported a motion asking Argyll and Bute councillors to consider Argyll Training’s ‘critical’ position ‘as a matter of urgency’ at their meeting today (August 18).
The letter states: ‘At this time a number of staff have taken voluntary redundancy and all remaining staff (16) have taken salary reductions and are subject to 90 days’ notice of redun- dancy. The company’s offices in Campbeltown and Rothesay have been closed.’
The letter explained Argyll Training has been placed in a ‘critical’ position due to a 42 per cent funding cut in the Scottish Government’s Employability Fund for 2016/17, equivalent to losing 70 places, and by ‘the cessation of the Department for Work and Pensions programmes (i.e. Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placement contracts) with no extension of provision until Welfare to Work activity is devolved to Scotland as of April 1, 2017.’
The motion continued: ‘It is of key concern that if Argyll Training ceases to trade, then Argyll and Bute will, in effect, be left with little or no Employability Fund provision. This will have a significant impact on the support that can be offered to our vulnerable young people in terms of providing them with the necessary skills and qualifications to aide them into employment, including the opportunity to become a modern apprentice.
‘The loss of quality training jobs and the key role they play in rural employability will have a huge impact on Argyll and Bute’s economy which continues to be affected by depopulation.
‘To date, the council has been actively lobbying the UK and Scottish governments on the devolution of Welfare to Work Programmes to Scotland.
‘In particular, a focus has been given to the provision of employability services in rural/remote and island areas. However, previous lobbying activity has not been successful in reversing the funding decision.
‘The council is asked to make representations to the Scottish Government to work together to develop realistic options for the continuation of this proven and valuable service.’
Oban North and Lorn councillor Julie McKenzie told the meeting: ‘We’re on a really short timescale before September if we’re going to do anything to save Argyll Training. There is nothing in place if this goes. This is a problem that will affect the whole of Argyll and Bute.’
Trainee Rachael Thomson with Argyll Training’s Peter Darling.