Youth work char­ity set to close af­ter fund­ing slashed

The Oban Times - - News - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

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.

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