Plans to close a youth advice centre in York and relocate its services are to be reconsidered following a protest by the York People’s Assembly and an open letter penned by academics from the University of York criticising the decision.
The Castlegate Centre currently offers services including counselling and careers and sexual health advice to 16-25 year olds, but senior members the City of of York council have proposed moving these services to West Offices, which would save the council £200,000. However, opponents of the plans have called the West Offices “intimidating” compared to the “inclusive” and “friendly” atmosphere of the Castlegate Centre.
Approximately 40 protestors, including students from the University of York, gathered outside the council offices on Friday ahead of a meeting to discuss the matter, during which all eleven members of the Corporate Scrutiny Management committee voted to ask the cabinet to review its plans.
Graham Martin, the organiser of the protest, said: “Attempting to shut Castlegate and limit the services available to 16-25s in our city has gotten clearly upset a lot of people, and rightly so. It’s the most under-provided-for age group in our city. Castlegate works as a service because it has everything under one roof. Without the counselling service, which would go under the current proposal, other mental health services in the city could buckle under the strain.”
Beth Curtis, a third-year English student from the University of York, expressed similar concerns, telling Nouse: “Castlegate is a vital counselling service for many 16 to 25 year olds in York. The city provides so few services to young people in the first place, which makes it all the more important to preserve the services that already exist.
“Its relocation to West Offices – an intimidating, impractical, out-of the way building – is simply about cost-saving and council cuts rather than considering the needs of young people. Who wants to be greeted by an electronic voice telling you to go to kiosk #4 when you’re a bundle of nerves seeking counselling? West Offices are hardly fit for the purpose, and will dissuade many young people from seeking the help they need.”
Despite the outcome of Friday’s vote, Councillor Janet Looker said she was “not hopeful” the plans to close the Castlegate Centre would be abandoned due to the lack of an affordable alternative. Speaking of the money the plans would save, she said: “I have to balance the budget by April 2015. If someone finds me £200,000 I am happy to look at it, but I am not hopeful.”