'Youth Pledge will put children and young people at heart of all we do'

Acorn Community Centre

Acorn Community Centre - Credit: Submitted

Last week I was honoured to be invited to a small celebration of The Youth Pledge at the Boathouse in Preston. It was lovely to see some of our cared for children enjoy festive food and party games (following COVID-19 safety guidance of course!) alongside staff who support Torbay’s Cared for Community.

Children become cared for, for any number of reasons including things like illness or their parents are no longer able to care for them safely at home. One important thing to remember is that it is almost always never the fault of the child.

The Youth Pledge is a corporate promise made by the council and our partners and outlines the principles we will follow as a corporate parent. These include always acting with honesty, being approachable and ensuring there is access to dental appointments, educational and healthcare plans. It follows a series of engagement activities with Torbay’s Cared for Community, including foster carers and young people.

We want to put the needs of children and young people in our care at the centre of our services and ensure their voices are heard, acknowledged and acted upon. The Youth Pledge is a key cornerstone in building a more child-friendly Torbay.

It was good to have a chat with foster carers and children about the Pledge and what it meant for them while they were enjoying the party. It certainly brought me a bit of festive cheer.

If you are still wondering what to get family and friends for Christmas or you’re planning your festive food shop, then please help support independent businesses and shop locally. Doing this  is important because your money stays within the local economy. 

Many local businesses use other local suppliers when they can, so buying from a local restaurant, shop, or other establishment means you are not just supporting them, but many others too. Shopping locally also helps to provide jobs for local residents.

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Earlier this month it was Small Business Saturday and I and fellow Lib Dems undertook a small business survey in St Marychurch and Plainmoor. Some of the concerns raised by small businesses included lack of visible policing, the negative impact of business rates on bricks and mortar businesses and difficulty in finding staff since Brexit. This feedback is extremely useful as it gives me useful ammunition when championing the needs of our businesses in Torbay.

Local businesses are the foundation of our economy, but local community centres provide local hubs of educational and social activity that enrich the lives of so many residents. They provide easy access to events, activities, sport, support, fundraisers, coffee mornings and public information. In short, they act as the glue that sticks our communities together.

Under the previous Conservative elected Mayor, owing to austerity, we saw funding for all of our community centres slashed. One example is the Acorn Centre. This used to receive a £50,000 grant per year, and now receives nothing.

At a full council meeting last week a question was raised about what the council is doing to support our community centres. Members heard how over the last two years this Partnership Administration has got a firmer grip of the council’s finances and has made a fund of £250,000 available to invest in the maintenance and upkeep of our community centres. Surveys took place over the summer and the results have given us a clear picture of how this funding can address urgent works.

Meetings have already taken place with the Acorn and Medway Centres to put in place capital works that will be carried out over the next year to 18 months. Further meetings are being arranged and plans will be made for other community centres across the bay.

We want to do all we can to help keep these facilities thriving and acting as the glue that sticks our communities together.