What Next to Save Youth Services?

Posted: November 14, 2011 by blackdaffodil in Children and Young People, Demonstrate, Rally & Occupy!
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Lambeth council cut £12 million from youth services this year. This has meant:

  • The almost total destruction of the in-house Adventure Playground
    Services
  • Severe cut backs in opening hours in One O’clock Clubs
  • Mass sackings of dedicated children’s services staff

They mean to cut £13 million more in the coming year. I confess it makes my stomach hurt to think about how our demo on Saturday fits into our history and our present circumstances.

Croydon riots

A society that believes in its own future cares for its youth, nurtures its youth, provides for its youth.

Our government is turning its back on our future.

Even in the face of riots we are watching the destruction of desperately needed services and the sacking of those who have dedicated their lives to our youth, at the very time we need to be building and improving them, at the very time when quality jobs are most desperately needed.

Massing in the square with us was a ‘march for black justice, black unity and against deaths in custody and state brutality’ called by the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM). It underlined the point that there are two paths down which a government can choose to tread, that of caring for youth, or that of repression and incarceration. Who chose to move towards the second? But we have. Prison populations in the UK have hit record highs, and it is vital that we recognise the deep racism inherent in our system made so visible in the racial breakdown of arrests and convictions. In march, Met officers were asked to explain why Blacks were the victims of tasering at such a higher rate (50% of recorded taserings, though about 2% of the population). Since then more black men have died in police custody, joining a list of 3,180 people who have died since 1969.  These are two sides of the same campaign and we need to combine and fight for both: to stop rising incarceration and repression, and to preserve and expand our youth services.

So we fight now, but there are not enough of us. The rally was lovely I thought, especially the One O’clock Club choir! But I could not disagree with the disappointment expressed by one of the One O’Clock Club workers. She asked just where were the parents and the children who use their services, now that we must fight to keep them? Now is the time to think about what we do next, how we do it better, how we can build a movement large enough to shape our own future.

As Labour Party councillor Kingsley Abrams has said “We have to stand up and fight the Condem cuts. It wasn’t the young people that caused the economic crises – it was the bankers. Yet youth unemployment has risen to nearly 1million, the EMA cut, tuition fees tripled and local Councils are closing down youth centres and adventure playgrounds. Oppose all cuts and fight for the alternative.”

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