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ASBOC launches appeal for youth workers after pandemic staff loss keeps popular New Milton recreation ground cafe closed

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A DESPERATE plea has been made for youth workers to join a New Milton charity supporting local youngsters after it lost staff during the pandemic.

ASBOC (Anti-Social Branded Outcast Committee) Youth and Community Trust provides advice and guidance to people aged 11-25, with its most popular facility being the Empire Skate Building youth café.

Since launching 10 years ago on the recreation ground, off Whitefield Road, the café has offered a drop-in service enabling users to socialise in a safe environment while accessing support.

The ASBOC Empire Skate Building youth cafe has remained closed
The ASBOC Empire Skate Building youth cafe has remained closed

Healthy relationships, substance misuse, mental wellbeing, sexual health, career opportunities and community engagement are among the issues the charity tackles.

But the café has been out of action since the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, and now three of ASBOC’s four qualified youth workers have stepped down.

The charity was able to run sport projects over the summer and October half-term holidays, with some of its trustees helping out.

Attributing the staff departures to “other life choices” made during the lockdowns, trustee Charlie Taylor told the A&T ASBOC was keen to be able to offer a full service again soon.

“We’ve always been at the heart of New Milton and always worked with those vulnerable and hard to reach individuals, so having that lack of service is a great loss to many people,” he said.

“We can’t offer full-time posts as we are a small charity. That’s the difficulty in trying to get skilled workers.

“We’re looking for three new staff to work six to 10 hours per week. They would be involved in the running of the youth cafe and other youth projects.”

Silma Ramsaywack
Silma Ramsaywack

The Empire Skate Building has had between 30 and 50 regular users over the past decade and, before Covid, it was open between 5pm and 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and between midday and 3pm on Saturdays.

The town council is support-ing the recruitment drive, and representatives recently met with ASBOC to discuss a way forward. The town’s youth services manager Silma Ramsaywack also revealed similar circumstance changes for workers and volunteers had caused shortages in other youth services.

“Certainly church volunteers are often of a certain age,” she told the A&T. “They may not feel comfortable working in a group setting, while some of the younger people will have moved on to other sectors of work.”

Meanwhile, the Ashley youth club run by New Milton Youth Trust had been struggling to accommodate youngsters, despite retaining its volunteers and staff.

Each session held at the New Milton Rugby Club pavilion is limited to a maximum of 30 youngsters. “We count people in, literally, and we have had to turn some away,” Mrs Ramsaywack continued.

“But we always ensure they have their parents to pick them up.”

She was hopeful an upcoming expansion at the site could accommodate more youngsters by April 2022.

The youth trust is set to have a stall at the town’s Christmas festival on Saturday 27th November, when people can find out more about its activities and the new major youth hub which could be built on land off Gore Road.

Those interested in becoming an ASBOC youth worker should contact Mr Taylor by emailing charlie.taylor@hotmail.co.uk

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