The Myplace fund is a missed opportunity

Ruth Fogg
Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Much has been made about the transformative effect the Myplace fund will have on youth facilities in England, yet little has been said about whether this is truly the best way to spend this money.

Although the Myplace fund will no doubt provide a limited number of high-specification youth facilities, this scheme will do little to upgrade the ageing youth facilities in our towns and villages.

Feedback that the National Association of Youth and Community Education Officers has received from local authorities involved in bidding for funds has raised some serious concerns about the structure of the process. Complaints include that there was limited time to submit applications and not enough time to get political agreement locally or find the available land or property. Even where space could be found, funding did not allow the employment of architectural services.

The vision of converting buildings such as shops in the middle of town centres was also an illusion. Winning planning permission to change usage from a retail outlet to a youth facility would have taken months, and no doubt would have drawn objections from people living in town and city centres.

It would have been far better to give the cash allocated to Myplace directly to local youth opportunity funds and youth capital funds and have these distribute the money to smaller capital projects, as most youth funding panels are now neighbourhood-based and are responsive to local needs.

Experience suggests that young people will not necessarily travel to a youth facility in another neighbourhood - instead they want something in their backyard. By channelling the money allocated to Myplace through the youth opportunity fund and youth capital fund, real investment could have been made to local youth facilities with young people at the heart of decision making and delivery. In fact, more money could have been made available, as the services of the Big Lottery Fund would not have been required.

While our members welcome new initiatives, it is important that those who are behind them remain mindful that local government bureaucracy and the need to consult with young people make it difficult for youth support services to respond quickly.

Those overseeing such initiatives need to consider the obstacles on the ground and be challenged accordingly so that money is spent wisely.

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