The Canberra PCYC, a lifeline for vulnerable children and teenagers for more than 60 years, is in dire straits with almost $700,000 in federal government funding to come to an end this month and its services rocked by the impact of COVID-19
The Erindale club, alone, lost $10,000 a month during the shutdown.
When asked how this left the organisation financially, straight-talking Canberra PCYC chief executive officer Cheryl O'Donnell said: "Stuffed."
Mrs O'Donnell said the service had lost thousands of dollars by having to close the Erindale club during the shutdown where boxing, wrestling and tumbling tots classes took place and space was hired out for other activities.
Other losses were from fee-for-service programs for vulnerable children which physically could not be carried out during the shutdown.
Its funding from a Turner car park owned by the PCYC went from $6000 a month to zero.
Compounding that was the loss of $685,000 in federal funding from June 30, which meant a program to help 14-to-18-year-olds stay in school or get work and keep out of juvenile justice facilities could no longer continue. The program had an 80 per cent success rate in stopping young people at risk and in trouble with the law from re-offending.
"Everyone else has said about these kids, 'No, too hard, let them go, not worth it'. Whereas we say, 'No, we can turn them around'," Mrs O'Donnell said.
"It's absolutely gut-wrenching [to lose the funding]. Can they not see the need? We have 60-plus kids on a waiting list."
Mrs O'Donnell has appealed to federal Community Safety minister Jason Wood to review the decision. His office referred enquiries to the Home Affairs department.
A spokesperson for Home Affairs said the Canberra PCYC received the funding under a round of the safer communities fund which was not ongoing or guaranteed. Funding was "awarded to the most meritorious applications".
"Unfortunately, there were insufficient funds to provide to the Canberra PCYC from the available funding pool once higher-ranked projects had been funded," the spokesman said.
Mrs O'Donnell said the cut program, called 'Booyah', had an 80 per cent success rate of non-reoffending, giving young people vocational skills, the ability to return to school or finding them work. The 20-week program had been funded since 2017.
It's absolutely gut-wrenching [to lose the funding]. Can they not see the need?Canberra PCYC chief executive Cheryl O'Donnell
"One of the girls who went through it, she was using methamphetamine from the age of 14, she wasn't going to school, she was suicidal, in and out of hospital, where there is nothing for under-16s, so patched up and out the door. She did the program and she's now working as an admin officer for a solicitor's firm," she said.
The Canberra PCYC was founded in 1957. It is often the last hope for many children. Mrs O'Donnell said the children and teenagers underwent intensive diversionary programs to help change their course in life.
The PCYC was also often their only stable place, with many children suffering a chaotic, violent home life. The young people were transported, fed, tutored and taken on activities by the PCYC.
"The kids feel safe here," Mrs O'Donnell said.
The Canberra PCYC had been on the front foot during the shutdown, setting up remote classes and launching an appeal for donated laptops and iPads.
Mrs O'Donnell said Canberra PCYC received just $1.5 million in recurrent funding comprising $507,000 from ACT Policing and the rest from the Community Services Directorate. It had more than 200 children on waiting lists for its overall programs.
Hands Across Canberra has launched a Canberra Recovery Appeal to raise funds for charities and community organisations, such as the Canberra PCYC, in crisis after last summer's bushfires and the COVID-19 shutdown. Almost 100 per cent of local charities have been adversely affected by the twin disasters.
"We're one of these organisations where we are grateful for anything we get," Mrs O'Donnell said.
Governor-General David Hurley is "delighted" to be the patron of the Canberra PCYC. He and his wife Linda had enjoyed getting to know the team and spend time with the young people, including leading them on a bike ride around Lake Burley Griffin.
"The work of the PCYC is critical to our community," the Governor-General said.
"Their committed team help young people in difficult circumstances both in the moment and, by providing skills, confidence and positive role models, position them to succeed in the long-term.
"I particularly applaud the Canberra PCYC for their work over the COVID-19 period. They've been innovative and continued to help vulnerable Canberrans in a challenging environment. Linda and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them over years to come."
- To donate to the Canberra Recovery Appeal and help organisations such as the Canberra PCYC, go to handsacrosscanberra.org.au.