Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 14:07 UK

NHS trust slammed over yacht fund

Hull and Humber Clipper yacht
The Hull-based Clipper Tag Team has inspired the scheme

A health trust in East Yorkshire is facing criticism over plans to spend 400,000 on a yacht for unemployed youngsters.

Hull Primary Care Trust (PCT) will buy the 72ft (22m) boat if funding is secured to set up a new organisation called the Wilberforce Sailing Academy.

The project's aim is to give unemployed 17 to 19-year-olds a healthier lifestyle and something to do.

Councillors and union officers said the scheme was a misuse of money.

The initiative is likely to be backed by more than 1m of public funding through One Hull, which brings together public, private, voluntary and community sectors.

Surely we should be helping these young people get into the real world of work rather than going off on a yacht for a couple of weeks
Councillor Steve Brady

It has been inspired by the success of the Hull-based Clipper Tag Team, which saw youngsters from across the region join the crew of the Hull and Humber Clipper in the recent round-the-world yacht race.

Chris Long, chief executive of the PCT, said youngsters would go on trips on the yacht and learn a range of skills such as plumbing, electronics and carpentry.

"They will learn a range of skills which will enable them to be a safe crew member on the boat and at the same time we expect them to build a degree of aspiration which might not have been there previously," he said.

"After that they will undergo training in things like CV writing, interview skills and job applications. It doesn't just finish when they get off the boat, there's almost a year-long package."

'Patient investment'

But councillor Steve Brady, opposition leader on Hull City Council, said it was a "disgraceful" misuse of public money.

"Any spare cash the PCT has should be used on patient facilities," he said.

"I believe this sort of money could have funded long-term apprenticeships to give real skills to young people in Hull.

"Surely we should be helping these young people get into the real world of work rather than going off on a yacht for a couple of weeks."

Terry Cunliffe, regional officer for union Unite, said: "While it is laudable to support schemes to help disadvantaged children, I think these costs are better met from social services and educational bodies.

"If the trust has managed to make a surplus, then that could have been ploughed into protecting them if they face financial difficulty or invested in patient care."

Final decisions on funding will be made by One Hull's executive group in November.




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