'Vital' £100,000 funding boost agreed for rural youngsters

East Suffolk Council cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, Letitia Smith

Letitia Smith, cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism at East Suffolk Council - Credit: East Suffolk Council

A six-figure pilot project to provide more support for youngsters in rural parts of East Suffolk has been agreed.

The two-year Rural Youth Support Project aims to address disparities in accessing services, and help people aged 10-24 who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The £101,650 scheme, agreed by East Suffolk Council’s cabinet on Tuesday night, will see tailored projects in rural communities to help engage young people, and could include things such as youth night clubs, youth cafes, pub events, healthy lifestyle events and carpool opportunities to help them access services more readily available to their peers in towns.

It will initially be rolled out across four of the council’s community partnership areas – Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth; Carlton Colville, Kessingland and the villages; Framlingham, Wickham Market and villages; and Melton, Woodbridge and Deben peninsula.

Letitia Smith, Conservative cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism at East Suffolk Council, said she hoped  the ‘innovative model’ could become district-wide if successful.

“Young people have been hugely impacted by the pandemic, and we know that many are concerned about the long-term implications, particularly in rural communities where there are specific challenges around access to services and youth provision,” she said.

“East Suffolk Council is committed to supporting our young people as we hopefully continue to recover, whether this is based on mental health and well-being, education aspirations, job opportunities or something completely different, this project will allow us to focus on specific local needs of our young people in rural areas.”

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The projects will be run by Community Action Suffolk, and designed to complement existing youth projects already happening.

Christine Abraham, chief executive of Community Action Suffolk, said: “Community youth work is vital, and the benefits they provide for young people are real and long-lasting.

“While public services step in when problems occur, community youth work can prevent so many of those difficulties from occurring in the first place and it’s great to see East Suffolk investing in this work.

“We hope that the project will provide the right level of support for communities to create more local opportunities for safe, supportive, and fun youth provision.”

East Suffolk councillor Peter Byatt said the hotel desperately needed a revamp but did not want 'rab

Labour group leader Peter Byatt - Credit: MAXINE CLARKE

The scheme has been backed by the council's opposition groups. Labour group leader Peter Byatt said: “It’s great because often youth in rural areas do get overlooked because they don’t have the massively loud voice of the townies.”

Caroline Topping, leader of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group added: “I totally welcome this, and cross-generational work would be really good if we can include that.”

Caroline Topping

Caroline Topping, leader of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group - Credit: East Suffolk Council