Sunday, May 11, 2008

Top Deck

Top Deck's entrance at Parkgate Chambers

On Friday evening, together with Cllr. Chris McEwan the Council’s lead on Children’s Services, I went along to the Top Deck Project in Parkgate.

We’d been invited by regular contributor to this blog Ian Holme, whose mother is a volunteer there. We wanted to see for ourselves what services the facility offers, and whether there are any wider lessons for the Council as we map out services for young people.

First thing to say – it’s a hugely impressive club. Run under charitable guidelines, and staffed for the most part by dedicated volunteers, Top Deck provides a “youth club” type environment for children and young people.

It’s open Monday to Friday during the evening until around 10pm. On a Saturday mornings during the holidays, younger children can also go along and play.

It has pool and table-tennis tables, and a café for hot and cold snacks. You don’t have to be a member to go – it operates on a drop-in basis. At very popular times, it can accommodate up to 50 young people, although when we were there, there were about 10 young people on the premises.

We were shown round by Morag Coates, the co-founder and co-ordinator of the project. Chris had a chat with her about whether the Council can help Top Deck, in the field of publicity for example.

So what did we learn? Well, principally, that phenomena like Top Deck are almost impossible to reproduce institutionally by a body like the local council. Top Deck has an air of complete informality that a public body would struggle to match. It relies on the support of volunteers, and as we know, recruiting staff to work on a Friday and Saturday night is particularly difficult.

So there’s no magic template that would allow Top Deck-style facilities to mushroom around the Borough. Where they do materialise, of course, the Council should do all it can to nurture and support the project concerned.

Finally, in a very revealing aside, Morag told us that like the Council’s own youth clubs, Top Deck has discerned a trend of declining numbers of young people using it over the past three years. This is simply down to young people’s preferences.

So the call for more static youth clubs as a panacea for all ills from a few opposition members is frankly futile – as I suspected. Youth clubs have their part to play, of course, but they have to be just one element in a very broad range of services, whether those are offered by the Council or the private or voluntary sector.

The Council has recently embarked on a large consultation exercise with young people to find out what services they would value, spearheaded by Click in the Park. Rather than be told by the middle-aged what they should put up with, I’m glad the Labour Council is fashioning its provision around what kids actually want.


Ian White, said...

Hi Nick
Isn't it funny how some succeed and others fail, out here in Hurworth we have as you know been trying (yet again) to establish a youth club and as ever it is a small handful of ungrateful kids that insist on spoiling it for everyone, (perhaps if their parents came and helped at the odd session)everyone in the village knows who these kids are and yet the parents still think they are angels, if only there was a magic formula (and more volunteers)we would have this type of set up everywhere!

kirsty h said...

if only i had transport i would help out in hurworth x

Anonymous said...

Hello this place is one of the most disgusting places my siblings go to. They're is black mold growing on the toilets, damp on the ceiling, haven't been inspect by the council in two years and having invalid certificates on the cite itself and the final thing my sibling has told me is the fire exit is blocked by chairs and useless cap that they use for themselves. My sibling has recently been kicked out for protecting family from two young people and since this young person is involved with social services. The woman who runs this place told everyone and made him very upset and angry. He has gone to the council about this. My thoughts and feelings on this is that it's disgusting. The people who run this place are homophobic and discriminate anyone they don't like the look of. Also I have pictures with I will be taking to the newspapers and getting this story out.

Paige Macdonald said...

I am one of the people that go to top deck and you do not understand how amazing it is, Morag and Chris are fantastic and are so caring and loving :) I do not know what I would do without them