Dorset Youth Association is staying at its Dorchester HQ – unless someone makes an offer which cannot be refused.

Chief executive David Thompson says that despite a public debate amongst local councillors about using the Lubbecke Way site for housing the association has 60-plus years to run on a lease and currently has no intention of giving it up.

“We’re celebrating our 75th anniversary this year and plan to be here for the foreseeable future,” said chief officer Mr Thompson.

Since county council budget cuts to the youth service were announced two years ago, the organisation has seen demand for its services on the up.

“We had an increase of around 20 per cent last year in the number of clubs and groups we support and we’ve been very much involved in helping community groups take over the running of youth clubs, including our near neighbours Dorchester, where we offered advice on staffing, contracts and helping with interviews.”

He says the organisation is very busy across a range of work with young people and families  – advice and training on safeguarding; offering support and advice to youth groups, their staff and volunteers and running training courses; holding conferences and networking events. The HQ is also a base for direct work with families facing challenging times.

Much of the work takes place quietly and confidentially – Mr Thompson admits the organisation has not had the culture of publicising what it does, but he knows that challenging times could be ahead.

Already, over the course of three years, his annual budget has shrunk from £600,000 to £300,000. And with local government reorganisation looming he is very aware that there is no guarantee of grants from the new Dorset Council, although Dorset County Council has been its major funder for many years, with smaller contributions from the district councils and some parish councils.

“From our point of view the problem has always been that most people think everything is rosy here and, as a result, the bulk of funding in the region goes to areas such as Bristol and Torbay…with the recent publicity about knife crime it seems likely that even more funding may be diverted to cities.”

He says that despite its cosy image Dorset has its share of problems as well, and rural isolation can be a real concern for young people, compounding other challenges they face.

The Association employs eleven staff, working across the county, including qualified youth workers, a social worker and staff which offer behavioural support to families, working in their own homes.

“We have a talented, multi-disciplinary team, and we’re doing more work to support families than we have done in the past…some of our staff will be in people’s homes early in the morning helping get children up and to school and some might be there in evening working on bedtime routines.”

Part of this work includes helping families with a “Strengthening Families” programme, working on parenting skills.

The figures from the Association are impressive – working last year with 123 families and around 5,000 young people.

It networks information to around 60 groups and holds an annual conference, the last on the theme of ‘mental health.’