Cuts spark fears for Eastbourne’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme

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THE FUTURE of one of Eastbourne’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme’s for young people is uncertain because of cost-cutting measures.

There are a handful of schemes for 14-25 year olds operating in the town but the Eastbourne Open Award Scheme, provided by East Sussex County Council’s Youth Development Service, could be forced to close as the council says young people can no longer enrol for the bronze, silver and gold award scheme.

And although bronze and silver winners will be presented with their awards in Eastbourne in March, the gold winners’ presentation evening has been scrapped.

The county council says massive funding cuts from the government means it will not have the money it needs to carry on providing all the services for young people and families it currently delivers, that no firm decisions have yet been taken and consultation is underway.

But the chairman of the scheme Pat Hearn is furious she was not told of the project being ‘mothballed’. She sayidshe believes decisions have already been made by Colin Edgley, the YDS operations manager, and it will be only the wealthy who can afford to take part in the scheme in the future.

Eastbourne College, Moira House, Cavendish School, the Boy’s Brigade 3rd Eastbourne Company and Nik Naks run their own schemes for pupils and members in Eastbourne. Young people who do not attend any of those schools or organisations have relied on the Eastbourne Open Award Scheme Centre in Bourne Street.

“Duke of Edinburgh awards give young people confidence and an edge in life,” said Mrs Hearn. “These cutbacks which affect the Eastbourne Open Award Scheme are hitting the kids that need it the most. I understand there have to be cuts but it is discourteous of the YDS not to have told us anything or consulted with us.”

Mrs Hearn is now hoping anyone who wants to help with sponsorship of the project to contact Vanessa Mattingly on Eastbourne 733615.

A spokesperson at County Hall said the council had a long term commitment to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards programme and to the young people who want to be involved with it.

“We have temporarily halted enrolment onto the programme through our Youth Development Service until we are clearer about our budget situation. However, our intention is that we will reopen enrolment in the next financial year. It’s also worth pointing out that young people can still enrol through schools or voluntary organisations. We are also maintaining our commitment and support to those currently enrolled.”