This Saturday, I’m going to somehow manage to take myself off to London to take part in A Future That Works. I went to the previous one, which was HUGE, and so it only seems fit that I went to this one. The previous march was titled March For The Alternative, meaning of course that there was an alternative to the austerity measures the government is imposing on the country (I’m looking at you Vodafone) and the aim of this march is to give the message that the government needs to look at proper job creation (and I mean proper jobs, rather than people working for nothing) and to build an economy rather than taking things away from people who cannot afford to have things taken away, either financially or socially.
So. What will I be shouting about on Saturday? I will be shouting about the terrifying way the government is targeting young people, and in doing so completely screwing up any chance we can fix this crisis in the future. Two local authority youth services that I have worked with have gone in the last year and a half, either to move to referral-only work or have their work commissioned out to the private sector. The government have got rid of Education Maintenance Allowance, meaning that young people who are at college have lost a lot of financial support. It costs a fortune to go to university, jobs are scarce (when companies will actually pay you, see above) and the government is now slowly eroding away the amount of support you get to actually start by extending the restrictions on Housing Benefit until you’re 35 years old. If you come from a background where your family will find it difficult to support you financially (which at the moment will be a lot of young people) you will find it so difficult to become properly trained, get a good career and move out into the world.
It’s not a case of “workshy scroungers” or blaming the parents for their children not achieving. This is not a case of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” or getting on your bike and looking for work. This is a case of the government not valuing, or even caring about young people. We are not preparing young people for the big wide world. If young people are reaching their mid-twenties with little to no qualifications, unable to move out of their parent’s home and unable to find a career then how will this ever solve the money issues we’re facing? In ten years time, when the 15-year-old GCSE students become the 25-year-old benefit claimants, how will we have done anything to serve them and give them what they so rightly deserve? People love to wax lyrical about all those nasty benefit claimants – why are we not making sure our young people have a good start now, so that they have the opportunities and support to achieve not just in a work capacity, but to raise their aspirations and build their confidence. This isn’t done by the government pulling away any support they had, this is done by throwing support at young people by the bucketful.
We need job creation for young people that pays a decent wage. The workfare scheme needs to be abolished, and young people need to be paid properly for work. This means they will start being financially active citizens paying back into the economy! Isn’t that what the government want? They need to be involved with agencies that boost their aspirations, good careers advice that give them access to courses and training so they can be a mechanic/barrister/doctor/CEO of their own company. We need professionals to support those young people who come from challenging backgrounds, those who have alcohol and drugs issues. Give them support now through social housing, good housing benefit support and a positive start for them to make it on their own and you will have people who are achieving and paying those good healthy taxes that make HMRC so very happy. And how will we afford to give all this support? Well a cool £6bn from Vodafone would be a good start.
If we don’t do something now, it will come back and bite us. We will not solve the crisis in the economy by pulling money and support away from those who will be the next generation bringing income into the country. All it will do is leave those people even worse off. But of course by then Cameron, Osbourne et. al. will be off in their glorious retirements. Not having to worry about the unemployment figures.
We have to invest in our young people. That is why I’m marching on Saturday.
So. I’m starting a thing.
It all started a couple of week back when another youth worker called Emily and I started having a Twitter conversation about, well, youth work as it happens. I think the conversation started from a comment somewhere about youth workers and teachers having the same training. We both felt pretty strongly that youth work was a profession in itself with its own skills, and that it was slowly but surely becoming more diluted with other professions like teaching, social work and various support roles.
I thought that youth workers needed to stand up and shout a bit about the job they do. I know they DO stand up and shout about it, quite often, but that any extra opportunity wouldn’t go amiss. So, seeing as it’s going to be Youth Work Week at the beginning of November, what better time to do it.
I myself have been part of other “Blogging days” such as Blogging against Disablism Day or Blogging for LGBT families day so I thought a “Blog week” would be the perfect opportunity for youth worker bloggers to do what they already do (blog their little hearts out) but make a campaign out of it.
I really want this to be an opportunity for youth workers from a variety of youth work backgrounds to come together and give their view on what’s happening to their profession. Maybe it won’t work at all, it could end up being me all on my own, I don’t know. But I hope it does work.
So here we are. Blogging for Youth Work Week. Please please pass the word around and take part. The more people we have writing about how important and vital youth workers are, the bigger impact we hope to have!