First of all, I would like to say that I like young people, certain contributors to this blog have suggested otherwise, simply because I don't subscribe to the wooly, namby-pamby policies they obviously espouse and which have contributed to the problems we have with our youth.
All of them, from the kids in the care homes that verbally and physically abuse me and my colleagues, to the young adults in the Refuge Day Centre that lead the most dissolute lifestyles imaginable, have some kernel of potential to be better and more complete human beings. Rather than solely blaming these young people's backgrounds for their problems and thus giving them an excuse to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviour, would it not be better to tell them that they have some choices in life and that they have a degree of power over their futures? You hear the word empowerment a lot in social care but it is just a buzz word that sounds good on training days and gets lots of boxes ticked on various 'performance indicators'.
Lately, and in the past, Ive been working at a few supported housing projects for young people in the 16-25 year bracket. I do a lot of work through an agency somewhere in the north of England. This work is funded and regulated by the government and costs millions of taxpayer's money every year. I actually agree with giving these young people a form of relatively cheap accomodation as the greed of the last twenty years has made housing almost inaccessible for a large swathe of the population. Many of these young people do actually work or are at least seeking employment or are studying/training and trying to progress in their lives. However, they tend to be the minority in the projects that I work at and constantly have to contend with their anti-social neighbours blighting their lives.
Perhaps you are wondering just what kind of support we provide to the young people that come to live with us at one of these many projects. All of our residents have to have a keyworker. Then, this keyworker will help the young person do an 'action plan', based on 'support needs'.
One of these 'support needs' will, in most cases, involve accessing benefits, both housing benefit and then either jobseeker's allowance or income support or a disability benefit. Therefore an 'action plan' is drawn up for the young person to access these benefits and they are then helped to obtain these benefits by their keyworker.
Why do these young people need a 'plan' to sign on and why are they being provided with a personal assistant at the expense of the taxpayer? None of them have any major impairments that prevent them from sorting out their own benefits without a personal assistant and a written plan. Well, a minority of them are functionally illiterate and that is the fault of the education system (Check out Frank Chalk's blog on my blog roll).
There are other people already employed in Job Centres and in local councils to help people apply for benefits. Why do we need to replicate these jobs? Is it to give people with useless degrees employment and prevent them from turning to radical politics because they can't get jobs in the real economy, even before this recession?
All I know is that there are thousands of keyworkers up and down the country supporting young people to write long winded action plans to sign on. These plans are then filed and very well paid internal managers as well as other bureaucrats from the Department of Communities and Local Government come and audit these 'action plans' or 'support plans', to make sure we are providing adequate support in teaching young people how to sign on and apply for housing benefit.
It is the nanny state at it's most pathetic and it disempowers so many of our young when we don't even have the faith that they can successfully apply for benefits at the Job Centre without the assistance of some Sociology graduate who couldn't find a better job. I obviously fall in to this category. I find there is more integrity in giving an honest appraisal of one's role in society rather than trying to put some spin on what is in effect a largely superfluous job.