Darlington’s MP has urged the council to save a service which helps young people into work from closure. 

The Darlington Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) will close in March next year after staff were told its funding will not be continued. 

The YEI programme supports young people aged 16-29 who are not in education or employment to move into training and work, giving them a helping hand to secure more permanent work in the future.

The programme's workers support people by preparing CVs, completing job applications and interview skills and are based at the Darlington Youth Hub on Northgate. 

But Peter Gibson has warned people will suffer and “fall through the cracks” following the closure. The Conservative MP has now questioned whether the Labour-Liberal Democrat council has done enough to support staff and its hundreds of users.

The Northern Echo: Peter Gibson has warned people will suffer and “fall through the cracks” following the closurePeter Gibson has warned people will suffer and “fall through the cracks” following the closure (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

He said: “I am bitterly disappointed that Darlington council has decided to pull the plug on the amazing YEI - the results of the work they have done in not only helping people into work but supporting people with challenges turn their lives around is exemplary. 

“It is a shame that the leadership of Darlington council have failed to even bother visiting YEI since they took charge.”

The programme supported 1,363 people between May 2016-July 2023, with a 98 per cent success rate of people finding employment or training. 

Yet Mr Gibson fears there will now be a “greater burden” on other services, as young people throughout the region look for support elsewhere. 

He added: “The people who will sadly suffer as Darlington Labour's failure to support this project will be young people who will have to turn to a complex patchwork of support from other agencies and which will sadly see some fall through the cracks, and put pressure on other services.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Darlington Labour are determined to turn our town backwards, with a slash and burn approach to every positive thing in our community.”

The Northern Echo: The Darlington Youth Hub on NorthgateThe Darlington Youth Hub on Northgate (Image: The Northern Echo)

However, Council Leader Stephen Harker said the council has already stepped in to fund the continuation of the service after the previous government funding ended, and a similar service will be rolled out next year. 

The YEI was funded through the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Department of Work and Pensions, and delivered by several partners across the region. 

That funding ended in July but was continued by Darlington Borough Council up until March 31. 

Unemployed young people will still be able to access other Department for Work and Pensions programmes, such as Restart operated by People Plus in Darlington, the council said. 

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Cllr Harker warned council budgets are continuously under pressure and the local authority is struggling to maintain and finance services due to government underfunding. 

He added: “Local authorities were told that the ESF funding would be replaced, but what we’ve found is a 64 per cent cut in the grant that we get and local authority budgets are stretched enough as they are.”

A new programme will be targeted at those who are economically inactive and are early retirees aged over 50, those looking after the family or home, or those who are short-term sick. Funding will run until March 2025.

It is hoped some YEI staff will be redeployed onto the new programme.