Champion boxer keeping kids off the streets says council plans to youth services could ’cause havoc’

Jawaid Khaliq, who grew up in The Meadows, became the first British Asian boxing world champion in 2000 when he won the IBO welterweight title.
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

A former world champion boxer working to divert young people from a life of crime has spoken out against a council decision to cut youth services across the city.

Jawaid Khaliq, who grew up in The Meadows, became the first British Asian boxing world champion in 2000 when he won the IBO welterweight title.

Since retiring, he has been running boxing classes in St Ann’s and The Meadows, working with up to 40 young people a day.

Mr Khaliq is fighting Nottingham City Council’s plans to reduce youth provision across the city as part of a £28m cuts plan this year.

The Labour-run authority is planning to reduce the number of youth centres and play buildings across the city, as well as reducing staff.

It would also end grant funding for NGY, run by youth charity Base 51 in Castle Gate, which works with disadvantaged young people aged between 11 and 25.

It has decided to retain three additional staff in play and youth services following a public consultation about the plans, ensuring there are 15 youth workers plus a manager providing city-wide outreach.

It also plans to close five of its nine children’s centres. It is hoped these proposals will save nearly £9m over the next four years.

Mr Khaliq told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The youngsters look up to youth workers and listen to them. People do not understand how much work is involved. How much it takes to get a young person engaged.

“A lot of people can’t get close to them, but youth workers have been on the streets and have that rapport. These cuts will hit very big.

“The council puts so much money into silly things but where they need it, they don’t. How can we prevent anti-social behaviour and knife crime? It is investing in these organisations – and they do get results. You are going to see a lot more people causing havoc.”

Nicole Bailey-Lewis, 30, said she knows the personal benefit of youth work. While growing up a single parent home, she relied on youth workers to keep her out of trouble when she was a teenager.

She is now a project manager for youth charity The Chayah Project, in St Ann’s.

“Because of Covid a lot of young people are suffering with their mental health and NGY provides help. They teach them how to cook, help them with their CV and with apprentices,” she said.

“Now they are taking that grant away. It is ridiculous.

“The council should have 15 youth workers per area not just for the whole of Notts city. Young people are our future – how are they going to develop and survive from the support of 15 people?

“Imagine if that was 15 doctors for the population of Nottingham – we would be in a bad place. They are not providing for the grassroots. There will be increases in gun crime, knife crime, drug crime and mental health as a result.”

The local authority says significant savings need to be found due to an increase demand on services such as adult and children’s social care – as well as a reduction in government grants.

Cllr Sam Webster (Lab), portfolio holder for finance at the city council, said: “We are still facing extremely challenging circumstances due to a decade of unprecedented reductions in Government funding and the growing demand for some key council services, especially care services for older people.”

Both opposition leaders are also unhappy about the cuts to youth provision.

Cllr Kevin Clarke, opposition leader of the Nottingham Independent Group, said: “This is all going to hit them back in the face. These services are the first line of defence. It is unbelievably short-sighted. There used to be hundreds of people working in youth services and they have closed youth centres one by one. Crime and anti-social behaviour will rise.”

Cllr Andrew Rule, opposition Conservative leader, added: “Some retention is better than none at all but I still think by cuts to the wider provision of the service we will top load ourselves with problems later down the line in terms of the demand for children in care.”

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