Focus on youth as pandemic subsides

By Amy Hetherington   |   Reporter   |
Sunday 8th May 2022 7:20 am
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The focus is on young people in the Okehampton area as the pandemic subsides
The focus is on young people in the Okehampton area as the pandemic subsides (Pixabay )

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COMMUNITIES in the Okehanpton area are continuing to band together to help reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour in the town and surrounding areas despite difficulties caused by covid.

The Okehampton Community and Recreation Association (OCRA) and Okehampton’s youth club Room 13 are planning on expanding their range of activities available to youngsters as attendance to the clubs starts to grow.

OCRA, with the help of the Yes Tor Project, set up a new youth group to tackle reports young people behaving anti-socially in Simmons Park, which is now seeing a small but growing number of young people attending regularly.

Ian Blythe, general manager of OCRA, said: ‘Attendance is picking up and as the group expands we are thinking about what to do next. I’m thinking about setting up cricket training.’

Funding for OCRA’s youth group will run out at the end of the summer term which finishes in July, but Mr Blythe said the OCRA team will apply for more funding and hope that the number of teenagers attending the group continues to grow.

Meanwhile, Okehampton’s youth centre, Room 13, has fully opened its doors once again after a long period of reduced service due to covid.

The youth centre has now announced that it is organising new activities for young people including plans to open a new forest school and expanding the age range of one of the Year 9-10 social groups (ages 13-15)  to include Year 11 students.

Room 13 youth leader Mike St John said: ‘We have just changed our programme a little bit. What has been working quite well is that we have got a Duke of Edinburgh group here and they have been working towards their bronze and silver awards.

‘We did a pilot forest school session last summer and we are going to do that this summer as well. We had a great programme last summer and we’re just hoping we can do more of that.’

The news comes as North Tawton Town Council revealed that some parents in the town had independently set up a youth club which already has 80 children on the books.

Jean Trewhitt, chairman of North Tawton Town Council, said: ‘It’s actually being run for members of the community but it’s completely independent of the council.

‘They are local people who have grown up in North Tawton and have children themselves and can see the need for a youth club.’

This is all despite dealing with past covid restrictions and previous failed attempts to set up successful activities for young people in the region.

North Tawton Town Council had previously attempted to set up a youth group but it was not met with much enthusiasm and the idea was left on the backburner.

Mr St John said Room 13 has seen a decrease in the number of children attending sessions due to covid which has until recently restricted the youth centre from holding large group sessions and prevented them from visiting local schools to encourage children to attend the club.

‘Because we have quite a small space we didn’t want the centre heavily crowded, but we have now got some air purifiers which means we are now opening up to more people,’ he added.

‘We are not as busy as we have been in the past and I think that it’s because of the interruption caused by covid that young people are not finding us. The normal route in for us has been interrupted with the schools closed.’

This focus on providing teenagers with alternative places to stay after school followed rising concern over the increase in anti-social behaviour in Simmons Park which was put down to a small group of young people and the release of a report by Room 13 which discovered that some teenagers were not returning home after school and instead hanging about around the town.

Last year the zip wire in Simmons Park’s was vandalised by a group of young people and there have also been instances of stones uprooted and left on pathways in the past.

The police, borough council, social landlords and community mental health teams hold regular meetings at which they discuss  anti-social behaviour and the support needed to care for those who could easily become victims of such disruptive behaviour.

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