Lewisham youth and community centre is facing closure after 34 years due to losing Council funding

pic: Lez Henry

A community centre may be forced to close after losing its funding from Lewisham Council.

Lewisham Way Youth and Community Centre, which has been running for 34 years, now has until the end of March to find alternate sources of funding.

The council says the centre did not “meet all of the criteria sufficiently” to be awarded funding amidst a rush for grants by voluntary groups.

But managers say the council have not been clear about their targets, and that the LWYCC is essential to the community.

Education consultant and volunteer Dr. Lez Henry called the move “a shame and a disgrace.”

Henry, who credits the centre for his development as a young man and helped set up its Black Fathers Support Group, said it was the only place the Afro-Caribbean community could turn for social, family and mental health programs under one roof. He said: “If there’s anywhere else that offers that service, I want to see it.”

Volunteers at Lewisham Way work with young current and former gang members offering music, counselling and teaching services as well as a choir.

Lewisham Council told EastLondonLines it recognises the importance of such groups but has seen applications for money far outstrip available funds.

But Everton Augustus, the centre’s manager, says the council have been unclear about which standards have not been met: “They didn’t give us a real specific reason – I’m still in the dark regarding what those targets are.”

The centre, which says it is solely reliant on the council, lost out in July this year amidst the rush of voluntary and community groups competing before the Mayor and Council for funding.

Augustus defended the centre’s performance, saying: “They have been funding us less and expecting us to do more with less workers, so there’s no way the output could be the same with less input.

But the council’s response to that letter says the centre gave two inconsistent sets of opening times for its services during the appeals process, and that it has not made clear the source of £2,005 claimed as income in 2009/10.

It goes on to claim that the centre failed to show counsellors fulfilled the standards required for providing advice.

According to Henry, the centre’s reliance on community trust could cause it to be undervalued by Council statistics. Because it operates on the basis of community trust, many people who go there for advice are not recorded or documented.

“We’ve managed to solve a lot of the issues involving postcode wars, where some kids from SE13 aren’t going down to SE8 due to unresolved issues around gang association.”

While youth centres exist on housing estates across the borough, Henry said that young people from ‘rival’ estates often refused to visit them. “People coming from some different areas around here won’t even talk to each other – and we can bring them all into a neutral space,” he added.

Augustus added that its potential closure “will have an impact on the way young people choose to resolve conflicts… they will have less options unless people are giving them guidance to stay outside of the criminal justice system.”

The centre will now be seeking funds from Scottish charity Carnegie UK Trust.

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