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Space scheme for Staffordshire youngsters set to go ahead despite coronavirus challenges

By Kerry Ashdown | Stafford | News | Published:

A holiday scheme for youngsters in Staffordshire is set to return this summer despite the challenges to leisure activities caused by coronavirus.

Councillor Ann Edgeller

The Space scheme, run by Staffordshire Police in the 1980s and 90s, has proved a hit with the latest generation of local children too since it was brought back in recent years by the area’s police, fire and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis.

Eight to 17-year-olds have been able to take part in activities including street dance, music workshops and sports sessions.

In 2017, a 38 per cent fall in reported antisocial behaviour was seen in Staffordshire during the weeks the scheme operated.

But earlier this year many leisure pursuits, such as team games, had to be halted across the country as part of the lockdown measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

While some activities – including outdoor sports such as golf and tennis – have now been allowed to resume, leisure centres and indoor gyms will not be able to reopen until July 25 at the earliest.

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Stafford borough and county councillor Ann Edgeller asked Mr Ellis about this summer’s Space plans at a Police, Fire and Crime Panel meeting on Monday.

She said: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic – how are you going to be able to run it now we’re in this situation?”

Mr Ellis, who was due to stand down as Staffordshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner in May before the pandemic postponed elections until 2021, responded: “Initially we thought it would be impossible because of the current situation. (Organisers) have pulled all the stops out – I’m about to sign off.

Different

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“We have had to make absolutely certain that whatever is done is done clearly in a safe way; primarily for people’s health, but also so I don’t get sued for putting on something that isn’t appropriate. The Space team have been working very hard over the last three months to see if, in the Covid environment, it could be done.

“I have to say the early indications were ‘not a chance’ – I was sad that Space would not have happened this year if it were not for the ingenuity and way we have dealt with all the providers on a one-on-one basis. I’m hopeful – and I need to be really clear around the risks and the benefits – Space will go ahead, albeit in a different way to the way it has in the past because of the restrictions.

“It will focus even more on the most vulnerable young people and those who will get the most out of it. It won’t be as big as it has been in the past and it won’t reach the 45,000 we have in previous years.

“It will be a tempered-down Space but it will still do exactly as it has always done and hopefully whoever takes over will continue, because it has made a massive difference.”

The Space website, staffordshirespace.uk, was listing three upcoming free “test activity” sessions as of July 14, including a fully-booked sports event that afternoon at Ormiston Meridian Academy. An evening football session is planned for July 26 at Kidsgrove’s Clough Hall Park, as well as a morning activity at Normacot’s Bengry Park on July 29.

Speaking after Monday’s meeting, Councillor Edgeller welcomed the return of Space.

She said: “I’m pleased they’re trying to pull something together. It will help the children who have not got a lot in life and it will be good.”

Kerry Ashdown

By Kerry Ashdown

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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