Youth clubs are thriving thanks to volunteers. Is this the ‘Big Society’ in action?

Janice Atkinson for The Daily Mail
13th July 2012

Dave’s Big Society is apparently alive and well in the ‘Youth Industry’. But the lefties running these partly state-funded charities hate it.

It is not often that I give Dave credit. But good on him if he is clearing out state delivered services that can be run more effectively by good old-fashioned fund-raising and philanthropy.

A report on this morning’s Today programme revealed that cuts to council funds have led to youth clubs all over the country closing.

However, a survey of youth service providers in England by the BBC suggests that most of them have managed to re-open thanks to volunteers stepping in – and they are thriving.

Not a fan of the coalition government, the BBC’s Home Editor Mark Easton reviewed 60 areas of England and found a year ago that many clubs had closed.

But this year he uncovered many cases where people had rallied round and re-opened the services for young people.

From villages to cities, volunteers and businesses were stepping in and it occurred to Mr Easton that it was working! Youth have got together and re-opened their centres and say that their new centres are better than before.

Mr Easton was keen to distance himself from his findings as he seems to struggle with the concept of people doing it for themselves without state hand-outs and handholding.  He found that it was ‘peverse’ that by closing down the funding, people had risen up.  Local people are going to local businesses and trusts for funding and able to buy in the services that the kids want.

Dominic Cotton, a former BBC journalist, from the charity UK Youth, who is the charity’s Director of Communications (I wonder how much his salary is?), discussed whether this is evidence of the “big society” working or just a patch-up job that is unsustainable and absolutely wasn’t working.

He said that volunteers are fantastic but cannot be counsellers, offer accredited learning programmes and cannot deliver the same as qualified youth workers.

He claimed they need ‘managing and support and do not have the resources needed’.

Why not?  Because under New Labour a whole industry has thrived around state funded charities and pays his salary and the salary of the chief executive, Charlotte Hill.  Ms Hill is a New Labour luvvie who started her career working for Richard Burden MP in Birmingham before moving onto work for the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP. These people believe that you cannot leave it to ordinary people, businesses, philanthropy, the youth themselves (heaven forbid) and volunteers to run youth centres.

Instead, they believe it is their right to receive state funding to extend the nanny state.

This charity is part funded by the state to the tune of £1.76m.  They have spent this money on ‘participation, inclusion, achievement, support services for disadvantaged people, health and well-being challenges and a healthy transition to adulthood project’.   In addition, this charity spent £518k last year on fundraising and publicity alone.

Think what your local youth centre could do with part of that cash.

I am in my 40s and remember my youth club.  It was in St Peter’s church hall in Woolwich, a poor area of south east London.  It was run by volunteers.  We had a fantastic disco on Monday and Friday nights, snooker was played by the boys and basically it was a place to go and meet a boy or a girl, dance the night away, ogle at the opposite sex and buy a Coke and a packet of crisps before catching the bus home.

I can’t remember thinking that I needed a youth worker, counsellor, sexuality advisor or be packed off to an outward bound activity centre because I was deprived by living in social housing, sharing a bedroom with my sister and attending a youth club twice a week.

Under the Youth Industry regime of youth centres I would be considered disadvantaged and pushed into a ‘healthy transition to adulthood project’, be encouraged to question my sexuality and the fact that my youth club was run by the church, it would be socially and culturally exclusive to other faiths and creeds.

I would be offered counselling to question why I was unhappy (teenage hormones probably or fed up that my parents wouldn’t allow me pierced ears, dyed hair or forced me to go to school) who would then suggest it was my hard-working father’s fault for not being there as he had two jobs to make ends meet.  Or claim I had physical abuse because I got the odd smack for being a rude teenager or because my parents occasionally shouted at me because I hadn’t cleared up my room or done the washing up after being repeatedly asked to do so.

They may encourage regressive therapy to reveal that all my problems (I didn’t have any, but they would suggest I did), were down to my parents, the fact that they had fought to get me into a good school which I didn’t like, that they couldn’t afford those platform shoes I wanted so badly and made me a victim rather than a sulky teenager who couldn’t get her own way.

But that’s the counselling industry and a related subject for another day.

Comments Off on Youth clubs are thriving thanks to volunteers. Is this the ‘Big Society’ in action?