Published: 24 February, 2012
by RICHARD WATTS
Of all of the victims of the government’s unfair cuts, young people have been the worst hit.
Our job in Islington is to give young people back the chances in life the government is taking away from them.
The loss of the Educational Maintenance Allowance has hit thousands of young people in Islington.
The massive increases in university tuition fees will also make life harder.
The cancellation of the Future Jobs fund and massive cuts to Connexions career advice services will make getting into work more difficult.
The recession, made worse by the government’s cuts, is also particularly affecting young people.
The grants to councils to help teenage parents, disrupt gangs, reduce substance abuse, reduce youth crime, help young people with mental health problems and provide young people with positive activities have all been cut.
For ambitious young people, particularly those from a deprived background, it is now harder to study, harder to get a job, harder to find a house, harder to find productive things to do and harder to keep out of trouble.
It is as if the government has systematically gone through every area of their life and reduced or removed the help and support they used to enjoy.
Against this onslaught, Islington Council is standing up for our young people.
We want to give our young people back the chance to get on in life.
That’s why we are helping young people to:
Go on to further study or a decent job: We’re proving new apprenticeships, improving the number of courses offered in Islington and launching a new Izzy website with the latest information about the best courses and job opportunities. We are looking to introduce a new bursary to help young people from poorer homes to fund some of the costs necessary to stay in college.
Have excellent youth services: we are protecting the borough’s youth work from the government’s cuts and opening fantastic new facilities like the Platform youth hub in Finsbury Park and refurbished White Lion Centre.
Across the country councils have been forced to cut youth provision.
Islington has promised not to cut our youth and play work and I’m not aware of any other council that has prioritised young people in this way.
Stay safe: by disrupting “gangs” and targeting the adults who recruit young people into crime.
We are investing in new services that will help to protect our young people and provide positive alternatives to criminality.
Find a home: we are offering housing advice and opportunities including cheaper shared ownership, extra points for tenants’ children, all supported by the biggest affordable house building programme Islington has seen for a generation.
Have the power to make decisions, through the new Youth Council. I’m particularly pleased to welcome the new Youth Councillors to their roles. Young people are the experts in what services they want and I want them to be in the driving seat in deciding what services they want the council to provide.
I am proud of the work that Islington Council is doing to ensure all of our young people have the best start in life.
• Richard Watts is Islington Council’s Executive Member for Children and Families