The future of a project which has supported hundreds of young people not in education, employment or training in Blaenau Gwent has been thrown into doubt.

Since being set up in 2016, Blaenau Gwent’s Inspire 2 Achieve and Inspire 2 Work projects have helped 695 young people who were NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), or at risk of becoming so.

The project has also contributed towards a significant reduction in the number of young people who are NEET in the borough.

Back in 2010, Blaenau Gwent had the second highest percentage in Wales, at 8.7 per cent.

This has fallen to 1.9 per cent (11 young people) in 2018 and an unverified figure of 1.7 per cent (nine) last year, which would be the lowest on record.

But with grant funding from the European Social Fund coming to an end in 2022, the county borough council is now having to consider looking for alternative funding opportunities to continue the project.

Joanne Sims, Blaenau Gwent council’s youth service manager, told an education and learning scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday that while funding is secure until 2022, future arrangements now need to be considered.

“The funding is secure until 2022 but because it funds a significant a significant number of staff and provides much needed support to vulnerable young people, we do need to think about how we can plan for beyond 2022,” she said.

Councillor John Morgan said he had “grave concerns” over the funding situation.

“I believe the department has done an excellent job over recent years, yet what concerns me is that the department is heavily grant led and I am concerned what is going to happen at the end of the programme,” he said.

Councillor Haydn Trollope questioned whether there is a risk that staff could leave the service amid the funding situation.

Ms Sims said the team is used to a grant funding situation and that she does not expect an “en masse” move.

“This is not the first time we have been here,” she said.

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“We do have very committed staff who are in the work because they believe in it as well as it being a job.

“They will stay in their role for as long as they can.”