If the Tories get in I will be ending my blog. Why? Well, it’s because David Cameron has come up with one simple idea that will solve all the problems associated with British youth and thus my rantings will become obsolete. He has decided to send all 16 year olds to concentration camps for the summer where they will be shown T.V footage from days gone by of how tough the majority of teenagers used to have it what with getting belted about the head at school day in day out before having to endure a lifetime of tedious backbreaking work down a mine or in a factory.Well, at least in those days young people had jobs to go to and houses they could afford to buy or rent.
Cameron is the master of gimmicks and policy announcements that at the end of the day will go nowhere and if they do, in many instances, will have no effect. Didn’t he used to have a wind turbine on the roof of his house to generate electricity that he was forced to take down? Maybe he could stick it to his head to see if it can generate any sensible ideas in relation to youth issues.
The main problem, amongst others, with Cameron’s National Citizen Service is that it’s voluntary. He has embarked upon this plan as an antidote to gang violence and the more serious manifestations of youth disengagement. If these youths won’t engage constructively with the myriad of services already available to help them turn their lives around then how does he think he is going to manage to do it? Maybe he will threaten to hug them again as he did a few years back. If Cameron wants to help the really disaffected youths at the fringe of our society, a minority but a sizeable one, then he should take his lead from the Eastside Young Leaders Academy.
He says that the root cause of vandalism and youth crime is a lack of discipline and that this initiative will be the cure. Well, discipline involves people often having to do things they would rather not be doing in order to improve their character and requires one individual to transmit the discipline to another as there are very few teenagers that willingly and openly invite discipline in to their lives. The more feral kids in society need discipline and structure so let’s have a plan that has these values at its heart and in order for it to be effective it needs to be compulsory. As a voluntary measure it’s akin to shooting the horse before you’ve even opened the barn door.
The initiative is also aimed at all 16 year olds and not just gang members and those youths who haven’t been effectively socialised. What sane teenager who behaves well or relatively ok at school and isn’t involved in crime or anti-social behaviour will want to spend time in the company of their unruly and aggressive peers? For some of these kids the summer is the only break they get from thuggish behaviour that blights their lives in bog standard comprehensives. Luckily for them it’s voluntary so they can spend their summers doing what they please a right they have surely earned.
Cameron’s speech to announce the National Citizen Plan also reveals Cameron’s strategy of trying to appeal to voters of all persuasions. In this speech he was careful to mention the word discipline (to appeal to the more Conservative voter) but emphasized that this scheme would be voluntary (trying to appease the more liberal minded). I am tempted to vote for the Conservatives (I like the noises they are making about school discipline and cutting police bureaucracy) as well as the Lib Dems (tax policies and efforts to cut inequality) but Cameron’s lack of any clear, committed and consistent stance in many areas worries me. He appears to be a man more concerned with seizing power than one with a clear vision.
After reading about Cameron’s plan to turn the lives of yoofs around it got me thinking about all the harebrained plans and policies I have to work with. In fact, right outside the office on a notice board there is one outlining our policy on Keyworking (a.k.a Support Working, Link Working just in case anyone finds the term Keyworking offensive they have options). The policy outlines all the different qualities that the resident’s personal assistant, sorry KeyWorker, should exude, thus instilling at a young age that the state is there to serve you before you have done anything in service of the state. Most notable of all though is the definition of what keyworking purports to do: “helping you to realise your goals in order to move forward in life.” This definition doesn’t allow for the fact that many of our 16-25 year old residents don’t have goals beyond getting as wasted as they can on a regular basis. This then involves me having to support them in setting some goals all the while being “careful not to impose one’s own value system” as one manager put it to me recently. The residents who don’t have goals never turn up for their Keyworking sessions and have to be threatened with eviction to engage in setting goals they don’t aspire towards. All of this is recorded, monitored and audited by layers of state financed bureaucrats.
Then there are those residents, usually the older ones but not always, who have goals and aims and are progressing and just want to be left alone to do so which they should be permitted to do. They resent formal support plans that state obvious goals like: continue to pay your rent, go to work etc. etc. They can’t understand and neither can I, why all this needs to be written down and why they have to talk about it every two weeks for an hour. They feel patronised for having their lives interfered in and they are right. However, as they can’t afford to rent properties of their own due to unjust rents they are forced to adhere to the state’s ludicrous interference to qualify for a roof over their heads.
If Cameron’s dream of becoming Tony Blair’s successor falls flat on its face perhaps he can get a job as a policy officer in the Supported Housing sector. Just like Dave’s National Service initiative, many of this sector's policies bear no relation to the realities of the young people they work with and are just as ineffective at combating some of the more serious problems associated with our young. Another similarity is that just like politicians when faced with the evidence of the failure of their policies, they will do their utmost to convince people that it’s all working wonderfully well, despite all evidence to the contrary.