St Luke's has announced key services for at-risk youth will cease in December.
The announcement comes in the wake of the federal government's decision to stop funding the Youth Connections program.
St Luke's has provided services for local young people aged 12-19 with access to education, training and employment since the program began four years ago.
Anglicare Victoria chief executive Paul McDonald said the termination of Youth Connections funding would have devastating consequences for the central Victorian community.
“Youth Connections is a highly successful program that enables us to support the most disadvantaged young people in our society," Mr McDonald said.
“Across Australia hundreds rely on Youth Connections, and since its inception the St Luke’s Youth Connections team has worked with more than 800 young at-risk people,” he said.
“This program has stemmed the tide of disadvantaged young people leaving school due to the many life challenges they face. It’s also reengaged youth back into education and training and restored many a young person’s confidence on their path to employment,” Mr McDonald said.
St Luke’s has also been administering the Youth Connections program in Castlemaine and Maryborough through partner agencies.
“Last year we saw 134 young central Victorians achieve really positive outcomes, all because of Youth Connections. The extremely distressing fact is, that for smaller shires, without Youth Connections, the level of youth support available will be decimated,” Mr McDonald said.
“When you pull a significant safety-net away from rural communities in particular, you pull the rug out from beneath them. Families will feel the brunt of this change, and small townships will bare the social cost,” he said.
Employment figures from the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s ‘My Choice, Our Future’ campaign reveal, that over the past two years, youth unemployment in the Greater Bendigo rose by 35 per cent, reaching 13.4 per cent in the year to February 2014.
Mr McDonald said the axing of Youth Connections funding would make youth unemployment numbers climb.
“Our young local people who are impacted by real challenges in their lives, will simply lose their way.”