Growing up in South London, like many others I saw people get into the wrong crowd and end up doing things that would affect their lives forever. But why did they do these things? That’s the question I believe we should all be asking ourselves when looking at shocking stats relating to youth crime.
Back in 2007, when I started secondary school, government funding for young people in my borough was not what it is now. I was lucky enough to be a teenager in a time where the government were still making the youths of London somewhat a priority. We went on regular school trips (albeit pretty cheap and shabby ones but school trips nonetheless!), we were often treated to new equipment, in fact one year we were lucky enough to get some beautiful new Mac computers. If I remember correctly, they lasted about two weeks before being stolen with the culprit never to be found! But it’s the thought that counts I guess! And most importantly, we had access to youth clubs. I was part of my borough’s youth parliament. We met once a week after school in the council chamber where we would directly deal with the funding pot for youth clubs. Youth club leaders would come to us to pitch their clubs and ask for funding. We would deliberate and decide whether we would be funding them or not. Not only did this teach me a lot about politics and life in general but it also kept me out of trouble. A couple of years later, the youth parliament was closed due to budget cuts with all the staff who had once taught us so much and brought us so much joy being made redundant and left jobless. This left us, the youth of London, feeling as if priorities were elsewhere and with way too much time on our hands after school and on weekends.
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This is why the London Youth charity, who have been helping young people for over 130 years, is particularly close to my heart. London Youth was founded in 1887 because the individual youth organisations of the day knew that they were stronger and could achieve more for young people by working together. Since then, a lot has changed but the need to work together has only grown stronger for young Londoners. They grew from the Ragged Schools movement in the 19th century which followed the simple idea that every young person, irrespective of background and circumstance, has something to gain from somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to. London Youth believe that: “With local authority funding hugely reduced and activities for young people being lost, it is more important than ever to ensure youth provision remains available for young people in their communities.”
Over the last year they have supported 27,188 young people to take part in opportunities that enabled them to gain the skills and experiences to help them succeed. They work with young people through their sports development, employability, youth action and involvement, arts and outdoor education programmes. Not only making young people feel like a priority again but also teaching them valuable life skills.