A DOZEN youngsters in Barton will get a helping hand thanks to a County Hall grant “which is better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper”.

County council education chief Melinda Tilley ignored officers’ recommendations and awarded a grant of £2,500 to Innovista’s Thrive: Barton project last week.

The charity runs a mentoring programme which has already helped 20 young people on the estate.

Council staff had recommended an application for a “chill out fund” grant for the project be rejected because it didn’t fit criteria.

But after a discussion with officers and organisers of Thrive, Mrs Tilley decided to give the scheme the cash.

She was standing in for cabinet member for the voluntary sector Louise Chapman, who would normally make such decisions on behalf of the council.

Mrs Tilley said: “I’m sorry, but I’m going to offer some money. How does £2,500 sound? That’s better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper.

“I know Louise isn’t here, but she’s not exactly going to kill me, is she?”

Robin Peake, from the charity, said the money would be used to fund mentoring for another 12 young people.

He added: “The programme trains volunteers to work with vulnerable young people in Barton once a week for a year.

“The main aim is to help young people set goals for themselves.”

The cash will pay for training, Criminal Records Bureau checks, staffing costs and expenses for volunteers.

Mr Peake said: “They have a budget to take their young people to do certain activities, so if they want to go ice skating, for example, then they can pay for that.”


One young person using the service, Skye Fiddes, 12, said: “I really enjoy taking part in the group. “We do fun activities together like going on trips, picking strawberries and making jam.”

Skye’s mentor, Eileen Stevenson, said: “I got involved because as a young person myself I had youth support, so I want to pass on support to young people.

“A lot of young people are lacking support and I want to give them as much encouragement as possible. I really enjoy mentoring with Skye.”

At the same meeting, Mrs Tilley awarded a £5,000 grant to Freeland Parish Council towards sports changing facilities and £2,500 to Blackbird Leys Adventure Playground.