Erdington Connexions Closes
Connexions, the service for young people aged 13-19 (or 25 for those with learning difficulties or disabilities) closed it's office in Erdington on Friday (26th November) after twenty years of service to the local comminity.
Staff from the Erdington office, along with those who used to work from Aston and Handsworth, have moved to other Connexions premises and there is an attempt to maintain a local presence following concerns the young people may find difficulty reaching Broad Street where the nearest office is based.
A demonstration on Thursday received a lot of support from politicians, union members, members of the local community and service users. Along with a photo album documenting the day on our Facebook page, you can also watch a report on what happened with comments from those who gave their support by watching the video below.
Erdington MP, Jack Dromey, described the Connexions service as "lifeline" for young people and that closing the office was "absolutely wrong", especially in the current economic climate.
UNISON steward, Wendy Connop said she was "really worried" about the closure, and expressed concerns about whether the young people would be able to access the service in Broad Street, as the financial implications of having to travel could make this difficult.
Ex-local teacher Heather Bryson has first hand experience of working with Connexions. She told Birmingham Budget Cuts that when she and her colleagues feared they might lose a student, they would turn to Connexions for help and support, describing it as a "lifeline" for young people. "It's not going to save the country any money in the long term because there's going to be more people on benefits" she told us, and described the closure as "upsetting and quite distressing".
Penny Holbrook, Labour Councillor for Stockland Green said the Connexions service was "vital to the future of the young people of Erdington" and that she feared the gap between the affluent and less well off would increase as young people who drop out of education or leave with few or no qualifications would have no-one to help and advise them. She also warned that the implication of closing local Connexions offices could be a "generation of kids ... thrown on the scrapheap". This view was shared by John Griffin, the UNISON convenor for Connexions in Birmingham who described the office closure as a "scandal" and claimed that the government could "properly fund an all ages career service".
As the shutters came down on the Erdington Connexions office for the last time, there was no doubt that the local community has lost a valuable service. We wait to see if the measures the local council have put in place will be as successful as they claim and we would welcome your thoughts either here or on our Facebook page.