Many young people today will maybe not remember the classic monty python film “Life of Brian” – A religious parody that caused uproar in its time. The python team did irony better than most of the stand up comedians of today. Brian was a very naughty boy but he was not the Messiah – That in essence is the synopsis of the film. Oh yes and the common people were being persecuted by the ruling class!!!!
I could not help but start whistling the famous theme song to myself this morning as I read an email from one of our youth management board who was seeking my help. He is trying to protest against the 75% cuts to youth services in his London Borough of Haringey. Just recently Mayor Boris Johnston visited a youth club in the area and signed a petition promising support. They have heard nothing back and the young man was looking to see if I could put him directly in touch with the Mayor.
As I am writing this blog I am of the understanding that Lambeth Council is slashing youth services by up to 60% and that Southwark is cutting a similar percentage.
The Boroughs have been put under great pressure by the cuts imposed on them by Central Government we need to remember that. They have a huge amount of services to maintain and to cut services to the sick and the elderly for instance could cost lives. We need to have some empathy with the position the Boroughs have been placed in. Cutting youth services was always going to be seen as a softer option than making cuts in other areas. At the risk of appearing cynical (which clearly I am on this subject!) the youth don’t tend to vote in general or local elections!
What amazes me is the way that those that called for more investment in young people to help counter youth violence while not in Government (8% up in London in last 12 months) are now residing over a situation where the options and opportunities for youth are not just evaporating they are being mopped up and poured down the drain! Meanwhile 1 in 5 of our youth are unemployed and 1 in 4 are living in poverty – These are UK statistics not some 3rd World Country.. Hold that thought!!!!
With the gap between haves and have-nots never having been greater in most of our lifetimes and some areas of the Country starting to look almost “Dickensian” in terms of the deprivation – It is easy to look not too far into the future and see the storm brewing!
Simon Hughes the Liberal MP for Bermondsy has always been a great advocate of youth services and a champion for young people in General. Just recently I saw him on question time being questioned on what his thoughts were on the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) being lost as an option for poor families. He openly admitted that they (The coalition) had done a forecast that suggested this would mean around 10% of kids who would have been staying on for A level would now leave school at 16 instead. Excuse the pun but I assume this was a “conservative” estimate!
What are these kids going to do? Get jobs would be the ideal answer I guess but then again the cynics might say “what jobs would they be then?”
Those of us in a position to help influence decision-making need to everything we can to convince the powers to be to investigate new ways of investing money into the youth sector. There is no point picketing town halls the Boroughs have been given an almost impossible task – The powers that be in Central Government have also asked the public and business leaders to come up with innovation ideas to help them find revenue to reinvest in the public interest. I do not want to see any more young people killing themselves senselessly due to a lack of hope driving them down the wrong path as the only choices they see in front of them are the wrong ones. I have written to the Government asking them to put a super tax levy on violent video games like GRAND THEFT AUTO and CALL OF DUTY. Games that consist of having young people kill people very graphically to score points. Why not? These games are far from healthy for young minds and in reality we are never now going to see them banned altogether.
These games sell in their millions for between £35/£50 a game so surely this super tax levy (imposed due to the violent content) would raise a significant amount. I have also suggested that any extra money raised by the treasury should then be put into a pool to invest in youth projects in the inner cities……. I wont be holding my breath but I will be whistling…. All together now…… ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE….