Young people will be forced to work for their benefits if David Cameron’s Conservative party achieve power in the General Election this May. The Prime Minister, in a direct message at Blatchington Mill School, Hove this week, outlined his party’s plans for young people in the uncertain future of the United Kingdom. No matter which party gets into power in 2015 the lives of young people will be governed by major changes, but what could be the best outcome for the young people of today?
David Cameron said,
“(Our reforms) are not just about saving money. They are about changing lives and making this a country that rewards work and gives everyone the chance of a better future.
“That is why we are taking further steps to help young people make something of their lives. Our goal in the next parliament is effectively to abolish long-term youth unemployment. We want to get rid of that well-worn path from the school gate, down to the Job Centre, and on to a life on benefits.”
Cameron’s comments this week may have sparked outrage with certain constituents but the focus should really be on what the impact will be for young people. Providing support for youth unemployment is only a fraction of the work carried out by the services in the city. In Brighton and Hove alone there are thousands of young people who rely on youth services to secure their future. The future of these services is currently uncertain as the budget for Brighton and Hove City Council is due to be debated later this month.
The Brighton and Hove Youth Collective is an organisation which brings together a number of youth services across the city to provide the best platform for young people to get a positive start in their lives. The Collective is made up of eight well known youth organisations across the city which have been focused on the wellbeing of young people on their own for some time. They are Brighton Youth Centre, The Crew Club, The Deans Youth Project, Hangleton & Knoll Project, Tarner Community Project, The Trust for Developing Communities, Sussex Central YMCA and the Young People’s Centre (YPC). However, in October 2012 these groups changed their approach and whilst they still deliver the same youth work, they now do it collectively sharing all their best practices and being more resourceful. The benefits of the last two years collaborative work at The Brighton and Hove Youth Collective are being highlighted more and more at this time as their resources embed themselves further in the city’s communities. So how do they feel about the proposed plans for unemployed young people?
Emma Jacquest, chief executive of Tarner Community Project, said,
“I think it could be really positive as long as it is packaged right. It can’t be something that people feel is a punishment for not getting a job, something they have to do because they have done something wrong.
“It’s absolutely essential if we are to tackle youth unemployment in the city that we keep our youth services.”
The Collective are funded by Brighton and Hove City Council and work alongside the Brighton and Hove City Council Youth Service. This is a “one stop shop” for everything young people need to know about what to do across Brighton and Hove. For young people aged between 13 and 19-years-old looking for events, clubs, advice or counselling the Brighton and Hove Youth Collective provide all this and more. The eight organisations provide support, engagement and opportunities for young people to become accustomed to responsibility, adulthood and self-reliance. For the youth workers at The Collective it’s clear that the Conservative’s focus should be on young people but the typical view of teenagers and young people as lazy and disengaged needs to change.
Helen Bartlett, of Hangelton & Knoll Project, said,
“The statement by David Cameron is really interesting because young people are crying out to engage with their communities and we’ve had no shortage of people wanting to volunteer.
“Loads of young people are incredibly active in their communities, they help out already so if it becomes a form of punishment it would take away the impact community work has on them as people.”
Youth unemployment is a major issue so it’s positive to hear that steps are being taken by the government to address the growing problem. The focus on educating young people is key for all youth workers but it’s also important that the wider establishment understands the importance of youth services. In a city like Brighton and Hove with large educational establishments which aren’t always accessible to young people, it’s essential that youth workers bridge that gap for young people who need support in their lives.
Mark Price, Assistant Head of School at University of Brighton, said,
“As a university we reach out to the local youth work community to ensure that our training reflects local needs – our students have worked with each and every one of the member organisations of the Youth Collective. In this way we work hard to be part of a seamless youth work fabric across the city.
“Youth workers have tended to engage more with young people whose life circumstances have meant they’ve often faced additional barriers to success at school and in life. In this way, youth work reaches the parts that formal education often cannot reach – the vulnerable, disadvantaged and disengaged. For these young people, the time, support and commitment youth workers are able to provide is invaluable.”
The future for youth services across the city may be uncertain but with the government and council focusing more and more on young people there is definitely a lot of hope going forward. The key to any changes made to Youth Services is to ensure that the people who are closest to young people in our communities are consulted and used for the knowledge they have. Organisations like The Brighton and Hove Youth Collective are making a difference in ensuring that young people are prepared for what life brings and the young people are responding to this positively. Politics are important for young people and many want to be engaged but they need to feel that they are equipped to be involved and that they have a voice in their own future.
written by Jonathan Taylor