North Walsham-area employers urged to help save successful Kickz youth project

Employers in the North Walsham area are being urged to dig deep and save a popular and successful youth project which has helped slash crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB).

The Kickz scheme will run out of money at Easter unless further cash can be found to support thrice-weekly activities which attract up to 50 youngsters per session from across north Norfolk.

Supporters say it is one of the only organised schemes left for young people in the area after a succession of blows which has seen both the town's youth and Connexions centres shut.

They hope to hear at the end of the month whether Norfolk County Council will agree their bid for a �10,000 grant which would see them through to August. They have already been given �5,000 by North Walsham Town Council.

Now letters have been sent to 13 larger local businesses asking for cash to keep Kickz going until the end of 2012.

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North Walsham Kickz, one of four similar Norfolk projects still running, offers football, a range of other sports, and workshops on subjects including drug and alcohol abuse prevention, and sex education, to young people aged 13-19.

Data collected over a three-month period showed reductions of up to 50 per cent in youth-initiated crime and ASB in North Walsham when sessions were running, compared to a similar period before Kickz, according to Dan Crouch, community cohesion officer with Kickz backers the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation.

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The Walsham scheme was also the most successful in the county at attracting girls, who accounted for over 40 per cent of those at sessions, compared to a top rate of under 20 per cent at the others, said Mr Crouch.

County councillor Paul Morse, who has signed the pleading letters together with fellow Kickz steering committee member Inspector Matt Dyson, said if the project folded it would have a very negative impact on young people and the wider community.

Sessions, at the Spenser Avenue sports centre, gave teenagers a safe environment to take part in positive, healthy activities while socialising with each other and adults, including, importantly, the police, who regularly attended.

Staffing had been trimmed on the scheme to reduce annual costs from �34,000 to �28,000.

'We are struggling to find funding and we cannot really go on with this hand to mouth existence,' said Mr Morse.

'The danger is that without Kickz we will see a growth in anti-social behaviour again and there will be nowhere for young people to go for social activities, or for the help which they can get there.'

Kickz, a national project which sees Premier League football clubs and others engaging with hard-to-reach youngsters, was originally set up in five parts of Norfolk for 18 months, using government cash and money from 42 partner organisations.

Of the four county schemes still running, two - in Norwich and Dereham - were now called Street Sports and needed small sums to see them through to the end of the year. Kickz in Great Yarmouth was almost funded until the end of summer 2013, according to Mr Crouch.

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