YOUTH groups in Cheshire West looking to put forward youngsters for the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) are set to be saddled with extras costs of more than £1,000.

Currently, Cheshire West and Chester Council acts as the 'licenced operating authority' for the award, providing centralised administrative support and training to group leaders and schools,

But as part of a DofE Award licencing shake-up, from April each youth group will have to be its own operating authority and pay an annual registration fee of £1,350 to continue offering the award.

Concerns were raised at a Northwich Town Council meeting that poorer youth group and schools, whose budgets are already strained to breaking point, will not be able to find the extra cash.

Now Northwich town councillor Brian Holland has called on CWAC to ensure groups which want to keep offering the scheme receive the financial help to do so. 

Cllr Holland, who has been involved in youth work for more than 45 years, said: “How can the smaller groups be expected to cover this themselves?

Northwich Guardian: Groups have been landed with an additional £1,350 cost to run the scheme (Newsquest)Groups have been landed with an additional £1,350 cost to run the scheme (Newsquest) (Image: Newsquest)

“Well-funded independent schools and the like have nothing to worry about, but I am in touch with youth leaders who say this is more than they can afford.

"Cheshire East, Wirral, and Greater Manchester authorities all ensure the Duke of Edinburgh Award is available to the young people who are most in need of it. Why can't Cheshire West do the same?"

Councillor Robert Cernik, CWAC cabinet member for children and families, said: “The Duke of Edinburgh organisation has announced nationally it is moving away from issuing operating authority licences, like the one currently held by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“From April 2023 any school or organisation wishing to run the DofE will need to hold its own direct licence. Some schools in the borough are already doing this.

“The council and its delivery partner Edsential were made aware of this change last year and have communicated the news to all schools and youth organisations affected.

"The council has always recognised the value this scheme can offer to young people, and we are confident that the programme will continue to be offered across the borough.”

In correspondence seen by the Guardian, a DofE Award spokewoman said the changes in the DofE licensing strategy are in response to funding changes in UK-wide youth service provision.

She added they were 'necessary to ensure the organisation provides the best possible support to the DofE network'.