The Inside the Council column with Sarah Courtney (Labour, Calder)

Coun Sarah Courtney (Labour, Calder).
Coun Sarah Courtney (Labour, Calder).

The nights are drawing in, Autumn is definitely here; our schools are back and we’re rapidly heading towards half term.

Nationally, youth services have been hit really hard by government cuts, and Calderdale is no exception.

Important Start: The Children's Centre at Todmorden.

Important Start: The Children's Centre at Todmorden.

For many children and young people the dark nights and dreary weather mean being stuck in at home in the evenings, but in some areas of Calderdale they are lucky enough to have a local youth club.

Having made some visits recently, I was delighted to see such lively and thriving youth clubs in some of our communities. Chatting with some of the young people was really inspiring. On one site they were pleased they didn’t have wi-fi as it meant they all had to talk with one another.

The youth I met were really friendly, and clearly looking out for each other.

All the young people I spoke to told me how much they valued their youth club.

They told me how it’s a great way to meet people who aren’t in your class, year group or even your school.

It’s great to have friends and know people from different areas, they said.

Another attendee told me how a friend of theirs had been encouraged to return to school after a significant absence due to anxiety.

They got to know a good group of people at the youth club and then felt less fearful of being in school.

Most young people I spoke to at the youth club sessions said it was really important to have safe places to go to, especially in the dark and cold, and adults to confide in, some admitting it was keeping them off the streets and out of trouble with the police.

Another group told me that they’d be more likely to help out if they saw another young person in trouble if they were out and about since meeting more people from different areas and schools at their youth club.

They clearly felt a greater sense of community and responsibility.

Young people, especially teenagers, are often given a hard time in the news but the young people I talked with were overwhelmingly kind and caring.

And for the ones that need a steer in the right direction, youth services can provide the informal but supportive intervention needed.

Many folk seem to think that intervention is only important when children are really young, for example through the excellent Sure Start programme and Children Centres, but clearly it works for teens too.

The challenge is how to ensure that every estate, every area, every town in Calderdale has a thriving youth club, like the ones I visited.

For some of our young people it could be a life saver.