Choose Youth

Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Choose Youth campaign, kicked off in February with over 1,000 young people, youth workers and partner organisations, representing hundreds and thousands of users and staff attending a rally in Solihull. A campaign pack was produced which can be downloaded under the News Section and if you missed it or just want to watch it again the Choose Youth rally  webcast can be viewed again. The next step of the campaign has just been launched with the Seven Steps of Action.

Stop the devastation
Student fees up, education maintenance allowances out. These linked attacks on the rights of young people are the tip of the iceberg in a deluge of cuts and policy changes that are falling disproportionately heavily on the young.

All over the UK and Ireland various services that support young people and many services that young people have been themselves funded to create and manage are being pulled apart.

At the centre of this new focussed assault on young people’s services is the potential demolition of the Youth Service. This service was created fifty years ago when the national debt was much higher but when there was a political consensus that society needed quality public services and needed to treasure the voice of the young. There was also a recognition that public spending on young people’s services was cost effective and a stimulus to the whole economy.

Now with over a million young people already unemployed and many out of work for a long period of time, the services which most bring hope, free association, fun, voluntary community effort, employability, social and personal education and community cohesion are being systematically broken up. A government that so neglects young people does so at its peril.

Young people deserve better and more
Young people have a broad spectrum of needs. They need to express themselves in the arts and culture. Yet we face the break up of high quality music and arts provision. Many young people have mental health or disability issues that need support in the community. Yet we face the ending of some of these lifeline services that have given life and aspiration to so many. Young people need good homes, yet homelessness amongst the young is rising again.

Young people want to make choices other than those offered on the streets where drugs and gangs are prevalent. Yet services designed to help young people make more creative choices and stay out of the criminal justice system are disappearing.

Young people have worked with youth workers and others to create youth councils, to build new youth centres where they can be warm and safe and enjoy creative activities. Many youth groups have built links with young people overseas, or to establish programmes where they can undertake voluntary work for their communities. These are all being cut to ribbons.

Young people in their millions enjoy volunteering in their communities, yet funding cuts in the support agencies for them are disappearing and volunteering levels are going down.

Young people value the trusted adults that are youth workers, many highly qualified and all highly committed. Yet youth worker redundancies are at their highest level ever with many authorities proposing to sack all youth workers. Voluntary action doesn’t happen on the cheap.

Young people need space to feel safe and looked after. Yet some authorities are closing down all their youth centres and removing all grants from voluntary projects that help run them.

Youth work has for generations proved the most cost effective way of meeting and co ordinating assistance for these needs. It must prosper, not die.

End of an era
Even those young people who want to develop skills to become youth and community workers find that the training courses in this subject area are being priced out of the market and offered lower funding. The fees for them are already unaffordable for those non traditional students who form the backbone of professional youth work.

We are facing the end of an era that began with the philanthropic activity of churches, trade unions and charities in the nineteenth century. This history said young people matter and there should be respect for them and services that they can shape and mould in their interests.

There is no political mandate in government or local government for these cuts.

The government says local government could choose not to cut youth services so severely. Local government blames national government for not giving them enough funds.

We say governments at all levels should take responsibility. There is a choice. We say Choose Youth, choose a permanent publicly funded Youth Service.

To destroy our youth services, whether they are youth centres, detached work projects, youth councils, disability groups or music tuition or anything else is to betray not just today’s younger generation but a whole history of commitment to young people and to our social future.

Youth work is big society in action. Cuts to it reveal the government’s rhetoric about big society for what it is, a big lie.

Beginning of a new – join us
An unprecedented number of national and regional organisations stepped up our campaign at the important national rally on February 12th. The event clearly demonstrated why and how there is a credible alternative to the current costly cuts and closures. It showed why they are unnecessary and deeply damaging. Speakers and entertainers and the voices of young people from the audience made this the biggest and most important rally for youth services there has ever been. Make sure every councillor, budget holder and MP knows that we mean business and our services are not for closure or sale.

Save our Youth Centres A3

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