MEMBERS and supporters of the Woodcraft Folk, the Co-op Movement's educational charity for young people, are being urged to join a lobby of Parliament in protest at the Government's decision to axe the organisation's £ 52,000 per year grant funding.
The recently-announced move has shocked MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion calling for the Department for Education and Skills to reverse the decision.
The loss of the funding has already meant that local Woodcraft Folk groups around the country have been denied money previously allocated to them and there is also a possibility that there will be redundancies among the Folk's five permanent staff in the wake of the Government ?s decision.
The Woodcraft Folk, established in 1925 and with 9,000 members around the country, is calling on members and supporters to attend Room 5 at the House of Commons on Tuesday March 22nd from 4pm to 6pm.
Spokeswoman Naomi Koppel says the Folk are hoping to have several hundred young people in attendance to ask their MPs to try to get the decision reversed. Would-be lobbyists are asked, if possible, to let the organisation know if they plan to join the lobby by emailing [email protected] in advance.
Ms Koppel also urged supporters to notify their MPs of their intention to attend and ask them to meet up to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, the EDM tabled by Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn ? and, so far, signed by 32 other MPs – congratulates the Woodcraft Folk on its record of empowering young people and encouraging active citizenship; expresses alarm at the axing of funds provided via the National Voluntary Youth Organisations Grant Scheme and calls on the Government to review the decision urgently so that `the valuable work` of the Woodcraft Folk can continue.
Mr Corbyn told www.thenews.coop he could not understand the Government's decision to end the annual £ 52,000 funding, which represents around 20 per cent of the Folk's income.
He said: `The Woodcraft Folk has provided an oasis of opportunities for many children to explore the countryside and themselves. I fail to understand the logic behind the Government's withdrawing a very modest grant that has helped the Woodcraft Folk to survive during the last 40 of its 80-year existence.
`Next week's lobby of Parliament is designed to remind MPs that they have a duty to all sections of society, including co-operative organisations like the Woodcraft Folk.`
Ironically, the Woodcraft Folk is featured as an exemplary case study in the `Year of the Volunteer` on the Government's Sustainable Development website.
Chair Jess Cawley, himself a Woodcraft Folk volunteer, commented: `Many of our volunteers give up hundreds of hours of their time every year to work with young people, and give up their annual leave to organise camps, play schemes and other activities both within the Woodcraft Folk and in the wider community.
`A conservative estimate would be that the work our volunteers do free of charge is worth about £ 25,000 a week, or £ 1.3 million per year. That sounds like good value for money for the Government, doesn't it?`
Mr Corbyn's EDM has been signed by Labour/Co-op MPs Mark Lazarowicz, David Taylor and David Lepper.