By Ben Endley
December 22, 2011
AN award-winning children's charity fears it could be made homeless if a youth club it currently uses is sold by Surrey County Council.
Epsom and Ewell Phab, which received The Queen's Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service in 2002, meets every Friday at the Lintons Youth Arts Centre, in Lintons Lane, Epsom.
The group has more than 120 members aged eight to 16, some of whom have physical disabilities or learning difficulties.
It is run by 20 volunteers aged between 14 and 20 who organise sports, crafts, music, drama and dance activities.
The possibility of the youth centre being shut was discussed at a meeting of the county council's cabinet on Tuesday (December 20).
Charity spokeswoman Zoe Giles said: "Phab enables all young people to gain confidence and skills they can use in later life.
"We feel young people should be involved in discussions and decisions affecting them.
"Our Phab club has worked in Epsom for three generations so far and we want to carry on into the future.
"The leasehold of the Lintons Centre has assurances that if we cannot use the Lintons Centre, the young people of Epsom would have a purpose-built centre with all the facilities we need.
"If you sell the leasehold you will leave us with nowhere to meet."
Miss Giles asked the council for assurances that a suitable space would be provided in the town for the group to continue operating.
Paralympic gold medallist David Weir is a former member of the group which, earlier this year, put on a show called 'It's a Kind of Magic' involving 60 members and was watched by 500 people.
Councillor Kay Hammond, cabinet member for community safety, said: "I am well aware of Surrey Phab being involved in the past and the huge amount of quality work going on both in Epsom and in other parts of the county and I will be listening.
"We always have to listen to young people, it is absolutely critical because, at the end of the day, it is your services not adult services."
From Surrey Advertiser
2:00pm Friday 13th January 2012 in News
By Lauren May
A youth club for disabled children has criticised a cost-cutting decision by Surrey County Council (SCC) to sell their community centre which will force them out by the end of the year.
Epsom Phab, which provides activities to both disabled and able bodied children, has operated from the Linton's Youth Centre in Linton’s Lane, Epsom for the last 30 years.
Up to 100 children attend the group every Friday night with many other community groups using the facilities throughout the week. However at a cabinet meeting on December 20 SCC voted to sell the centre which it says is old and expensive to run, with the aim of finding an alternative cheaper venue on a 100 years lease.
Despite assurances that this will be 'in the same area', with no obvious alternatives and specific requirements, Epsom Phab fear they could be forced outside of Epsom. Julia Giles, who has been a club leader there since it opened 30 years ago, said: “We thought we had a guaranteed venue for the people in Epsom and a lot of other groups for the next 100 years, but that could be wiped away by one decision.
Our concern is that there isn’t anywhere obvious for us to go and if they start to look at building it’s going to take a lot longer than a year. Consistency of services is really important for our young people, especially those who have learning difficulties.
If we have to move to somewhere else then we need to have that same level of security for the youngsters.”
With no consultation or prior warning of the meeting which would decide their future, Mrs Giles expects a consultation and task group to be set up to help find an alternative location suitable for theirs and others needs.
A spokesperson for SCC said: “Our plans for our youth service are all about making more support available for young people that’s more cost-effective and better suited to their needs.
This includes the recruitment of 30 additional youth social workers at a time when many local authorities are cutting such roles.
To do this, savings have to be made, and we are selling the Linton's Lane youth centre, which is an old building expensive to run, with the aim of relocating to a cheaper venue in the same area.
No provision will be lost.
We have a year to find a property suitable for all the organisations using the existing facility, including Phab, and will be working with Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, the community and the young people who use Linton Lane to do so."