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Are We Throwing Away Our Future?

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The cuts to services for young people being planned and implemented throughout the Country are severe and disproportionate and we will eventually pay a price for it.

In Derbyshire for instance there are plans to close 29 youth clubs; in Somerset they are planning cuts of up to 71% to youth services whilst in West Berkshire the Council are also making major cuts to their youth services. I believe this reflects what is happening in many areas of the UK. The bad news does not stop there because there are major cuts in support from central Government to the charities that support young people. It seems the attack on services for young people is from every direction. It is ironic (but not at all funny) that the third sector - the charities - are suffering this way since they are surely a part of the Prime Ministers 'big society' but since he has since declared society to be 'broken' we might question the value of these sound bites and set aside any assumption that the 'big society' idea is anything more than something you say after announcing cuts.

All the main parties agree that we need to make cuts but national and local government cuts are disproportionately effecting the most vulnerable. I would be interested to see if the proportion of cuts to highway budgets match those to the Youth Services up and down the land. I suspect they do not - there are votes in doing things to the roads - making junctions bigger - putting down more yellow lines and just moving things around generally. Work on roads to make them safe and to repair big holes is one thing but I question much of the rest of the current spending when other cuts are so severe. Of course there are not so many votes in keeping open a youth club or an outreach worker supporting otherwise disengaged young people. Reduce the voting age to 16 and then I suspect any future cuts would be a bit more proportionate - even if only a minority of 16 and 17 year olds voted. Of course the point is the ones who need these services the most come from families who are struggling and are less likely to vote - so it's a 'no brainer' for astute politicians.

Just in case young people thought there was some good news somewhere they should be mindful that the press don't like them much - at least they don't like young men. Most press reports refer to young men in a negative way using words such as 'thugs' 'yobs' and 'feral'. I don't suppose the authors of these articles are referring to anyone in their own families of course - its other people's children they are thinking of - and they can shift a few more newspapers doing it. Only if a young person dies are they more likely to receive a kinder press - that's a tough audience for people just starting their lives.

Is there not something somewhere in our culture that recognises that we do owe a duty to young people - that we should not demonise them and treat them a tribe apart? They are our future workers, leaders and voters, and even if they are born into areas where they are more likely to be on benefits than work, we should at least try to give them a sense that there could be more in their lives.

It is madness to neglect them and demonise them the way we do. Close the youth clubs and where will young people go? They will hang around on the streets - to be with the friends and to socialise and yes some of them will misbehave and the police will be called and, and even if they have done nothing wrong, they will be 'moved on' - but to where? Don't misunderstand my position here - if young people do something wrong then there should be consequences and a tiny minority of them are bad - just like us so called grown- ups! Stick more adults on the streets and see what they get up to! If young people go to youth clubs then they will have to learn to play by the rules even if they do not learn this anywhere else. If an outreach worker can talk to a young person who would otherwise be causing someone else problems then there is at least a chance that they will think about what they are doing.

What message are we sending to them about our values? Clearly we do not value them - that much is clear and why should they care about a society that cares nothing for them?