Youth charity faces bleak future after council withdraws funding

A Nottingham youth charity which works with 11-25-year-olds in need says it is looking for new premises due to “insurmountable” financial restrictions placed on it by Nottingham City Council.

Base 51 is a charity which focuses on early intervention, offering counselling, specialist trauma support (including exploitation, violent crime, modern slavery and sexual abuse), a LGBTQIA+ peer support group and a youth club with a dance studio and a music recording studio. It also provides practical support with a kitchen, food parcels, gym, showers, laundry and a clothes bank. From October to December last year the charity provided over 400 meals to young people that visited their centre.

However, it says it is on the hunt for a new HQ after the withdrawal of city council funding has left it in an “exceptionally difficult” position.

The charity moved from its premises on Glasshouse Street behind the Victoria Centre into its current building on Castle Gate in 2012. The Castle Gate Base 51 building is owned by the city council after it secured funding from the MyPlace programme. The programme was launched 2008 when the Government awarded grants of between £1m and £5m to councils for the development of world-class youth centres in some of the most deprived areas of England. Nottingham City Council was able to buy the building with the grant, and agreed to lease it Base 51 to run services for 20 years.

Base 51 says that, over the last decade the council has been steadily cutting funding to youth provisions across the city, and in early 2022 it withdrew all funding from Base 51, in a move which it says leaves the city’s vulnerable young people potentially at risk due to lack of services. The charity says it worked hard to fill the gap with corporate supporters and grants and entered 2023 in a “strong” position with its team supporting over 1,000 young people throughout the year.

However, in January 2023 the charity says it received the “distressing” news that the council go back on what it called its “assurances” from May 2022 that Base 51 could access its £150,000 “sinking fund” (funds put aside by the charity to maintain the building) to cover the increasing building bills and upkeep. The move, said the charity, would leave it once again in an “exceptionally difficult” position, including now looking into relocation of its services.

Peter Morley, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “It is devastating to be considering leaving the amazing NGY building, which has been a safe place for the city’s young people for just over 10 years. This would result in the removal of fabulous facilities for young people, including a gym, recording studio, dance studio, café and a counselling suite; all in a beautiful state-of-the-art building.

“It would be a travesty for all of this to be lost if the reason is that the council is seeking to sell the facility to cover the holes in its finances.

“Whilst the Council has offered vague assurance that this is not the case, the council would not be able to continue to provide access for young people to the facilities, without an annual investment of revenue. In that case, the council has always expressed its satisfaction with Base 51’s provision at NGY, so I cannot understand why they would not continue to fund Base 51 to go on with that provision.”

Due to these financial changes, the charity says it may have to make changes to its Universal Provision, which includes its Youth Club. The Youth Club currently runs Monday, Thursday and Friday and provides a safe place for young people to come after school and to receive a hot meal (many do not receive enough, if any, food at home). The charity is running a crowdfunder to help with the costs.

Without the Youth Club those young people will be forced to hang out on the streets, where they are exceptionally vulnerable to crime, exploitation and violence, says the charity’s CEO, Jo Jepson.

She added: “Due to insurmountable financial challenges imposed on us by Nottingham City Council Base 51 may need to secure other premises, our priority at this time is to continue to offer a safe place for some of the City’s most vulnerable young people, whilst our charity continues to deliver the high quality provision we’ve been known for over the past 30 years. We hope that over the coming weeks we can find a positive solution and a way forwards, so that we can ensure that young people have somewhere to go and someone to talk to, in times of crisis and need.”

Responding, a spokesperson for Nottingham City Council told “Base 51 provides valuable services to young people in our city, alongside other providers of youth services. We are due to meet Base 51 representatives this week to explore options for their continued operations in the city, as part of our ongoing support for the organisation to become self-sustaining.

“Like all councils, the city council has been receiving less and less in Government grants over the past 13 years to pay for local services, which has forced us to cut services that we would prefer not to. Last year we undertook savings in our own Play and Youth services, and the decision to cease funding Base 51 was taken in this context as the grant from the council was no longer sustainable.

“As part of Base 51’s lease agreement, the ‘sinking fund’ is in place for the upkeep of the property – a listed building – rather than to cover any operating losses.”

The Castle Gate building is also home to Take One School, an alternative provision school for young people aged 14 – 16 who are no longer in mainstream education and are looking to gain fundamental qualifications, and the Youth Justice Service which supervises those referred by the Court or Police on a statutory basis, or those that have been referred to work with early intervention services on a voluntary basis.

Base 51 says it is currently looking to continue to offer its services from a new location in the city

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