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‘We are in dire need’: OPEN Norwich fighting for survival

PUBLISHED: 14:20 30 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:20 30 March 2020

The OPEN Norwich charity is at risk of closure. Pictured, chief executive Laura Rycroft. Photo: OPEN Norwich

The OPEN Norwich charity is at risk of closure. Pictured, chief executive Laura Rycroft. Photo: OPEN Norwich

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A Norwich charity supporting thousands of vulnerable young people is fighting for survival after losing funding due to the spread of the coronavirus.

OPEN Norwich Credit: OPEN NorwichOPEN Norwich Credit: OPEN Norwich

OPEN Norwich has postponed all events at its city centre venue, on Bank Plain, due to the lockdown, meaning the organisation’s Youth Trust could lose its funding from next month.

And now chief executive Laura Rycroft has warned they could soon face the “difficult decision” to close the service for good.

OPEN’s lottery funding runs out at the end of April, and Mrs Rycroft said the timing “couldn’t be any worse for us”.

She said: “The youth service is funded by donations and grant funding as well as the commercial activities held within the venue.

“Unfortunately our lottery funding runs out at the end of April so the timing couldn’t be any worse for us.

“While we are unable to run events, we are dangerously close to being unable to continue.

“This would be a real loss to the community, not just to the young people we work with within our early intervention programmes but to the wider community that come to the venue for our events.

“We are in dire need of your support.”

READ MORE: OPEN Norwich postpones all events due to coronavirus

The youth service costs OPEN around £25,000 a month to run and offers support to around 3,000 vulnerable young people a year.

Mrs Rycroft said despite support for business, charities risked falling through the cracks.

“There’s help for the arts and hospitality venues but it’s not our sole purpose so we slip through the net,” she said.

“We seem to fall through the criteria on absolutely everything.

“It’s getting pretty close to the point where we make a decision.”

She added: “We do a lot of work with isolated children to try and prevent them going down the wrong path. Norfolk is a county lines hotspot - we do a lot on that front. There would be a gap there.”

READ MORE: ‘We can’t do any fundraising’: Charities appeal for help to get through coronavirus

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said “Venues are slipping through the net in terms of financial support during this incredibly difficult period.

“Either there is nothing for them or support offered isn’t nearly enough to cover the bills.”

He added that it was “unclear” how far Arts Council support would stretch and which venues would be eligible for the funding.

A Treasury spokeswoman said charities were eligible to claim for wage costs under the coronavirus job retention scheme.

• To support Norwich OPEN, visit their fundraising page to make a donation.

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