WIGAN Youth Zone has been hailed in a study which shows it is making a “significant, positive contribution” to young people’s lives.
And the report said the Parsons Walk centre is also making a social return on investment of at least 200 per cent.
The large, state-of-the-art facility provides eight to 19-year-olds with access to a broad range of services across sport, arts, health and employability.
The brainchild of Latics owner Dave Whelan, who says he benefited immeasurably from the old Wigan Youth Club as a child, opened in 2013 and is funded by local authority contributions, private donations, corporate sponsorship, grant and trust backing and income directly generated by the facility.
The report, which also analysed the impact of two other youth zones in the region, measured the impact on young people and the wider community in terms of health and wellbeing, relationships and social skills and aspiration and attainment.
Amion Consulting, a specialist in socio-economic impact assessment, carried out the research for the charity OnSide which backs the youth zones, and concluded that the Wigan club delivers a cost-benefit ratio of 2.19, representing £2.19 of social benefits delivered for every £1 spent on operating costs.
When examining the social return on investment for the average annual council-led public sector contribution (40 per cent of the Youth Zone’s operating budget), the ratio rises to 8.70.
The research also suggests the wider impact of the Youth Zone could be even higher when factoring in everything from job creation to the savings to the criminal justice system by getting youngsters who might stray from the straight and narrow to do something more positive.
The report includes a detailed survey of a cross-section of Youth Zone members, parents, local businesses and other stakeholders which revealed:
• 89 per cent of youngsters reported feeling more self-confident as a result of attending a Youth Zone;
• 76 per cent were getting on better with family;
• 70 per cent exercise regularly each week at a Youth Zone;
• 80 per cent reported getting better marks in class;
• 89 per cent of business owners located near a Youth Zone said it made a positive contribution to tackling anti-social behaviour
Kathryn Morley, chief executive of OnSide Youth Zones, said: “Every day we see the life-changing impact Youth Zones have on young people and their communities, so it’s great to have the value this delivers to society quantified through research.
“The report highlights the importance of providing a safe environment for young people to engage in activities that develop the personal and social skills that will serve them well as they progress through education into adulthood and the world of work. It also demonstrates how well suited our multi-sector funding model is to the current climate, delivering strong social return on investment for local authority funding as well as influencing further savings across a range of public sector services.”
Wigan Youth Zone general manager John Harker said: “We knew when we were planning a Youth Zone in Wigan that we would make a real impact on the lives of young people in the borough.
“However, seeing the results of these findings makes it really hit home just what is being achieved and everyone involved with Wigan Youth Zone and the OnSide network should feel justly proud.
“These fantastic results simply would not have happened had it not been for our strong partnership work with Wigan Council, the local police and a host of other agencies across the local community and wider borough.
“We have a joint responsibility to raise the aspirations of young people and make our local communities the best possible places to live and we look forward to building on these fantastic results in future.”