Oban teenagers continue to fight for youth services

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Two Oban teenagers are continuing to fight for Argyll and Bute’s youth services, weeks after the sector was ‘decimated’.

Oban High School students Dante Lopez and Rachel Lawlor are asking for the service to be made statutory.

Dante Lopez told The Oban Times: ‘The plan for the campaign now, due to council rules that state decisions cannot be revisited until six months after the date of decision, is to take the campaign national and try to make youth services a statutory service while keeping the campaign going in Oban.’

In its annual spending plans, Argyll and Bute Council agreed to cut 17.1 full-time equivalent positions in the youth and adult learning team – more than half of its current staffing.

On the day of the vote, school pupils across Argyll and Bute protested against the decision, including Oban High School, where hundreds of pupils downed tools, some of them protesting with signs saying ‘change our lives, not our budget,’ ‘stop the cuts,’ and ‘save ABYS’.

Speaking about the service, Dante said: ‘Argyll and Bute already falls behind on youth services compared to other parts of Scotland, such as Stirling.

‘If local people, councillors, MSPs and MPs want young people to be more engaged in their local area then having a good quality service like ABYS is paramount.

‘The impact these cuts will have will be massive as 17 staff, 58 per cent of the team, will lose their jobs as well as young people not having a sufficient youth service.’

Fellow pupil, Rachel said: ‘Youth services, to me, is a safe place to take away stress and pressure that I may have at school or elsewhere.

‘I protested to show that young people aren’t people you can silence after taking away such an effective service.

‘Since these cuts went through, I believe that young people will be less involved in the community and it will show and possible repel young people and families from staying or moving to Argyll and Bute.’

As part of their campaign, the teenagers travelled to Glasgow on Tuesday (March 12) to discuss the cuts with CLD Standards Council Scotland – a professional body for people who work or volunteer in community learning and development.

While they await the six-month deadline to see if the council will revisit its decision, Dante and Rachel intend to push the topic locally, aiming to increase the interest in Argyll, as well as on a national level.

They will do this by having meetings with committees such as the community council, area committee, as well as local councillors.

They also intend to link up with other youth groups that are facing cuts, as well as have meetings with national organisations and committees.

Leader of Argyll and Bute Council Aileen Morton said the local authority had to deal with a funding gap of almost £8 million: ‘Cuts mean we have had to make tough decisions about even the most valued council services.’

To stay up to date with the campaign to save the service, search #saveABYS, #noBSforYS, or #youthworkchangeslives on social media.