No offence to my readers across the pond but I used to think America was pretty fucked.
The home of McDonalds, Jerry Springer, KKK and the Westborough church.
I suppose it's relevant to the size of the country but America seems to have the worst of everything. Serial killers, drive by shootings, gangs, botox filled 8 year olds in beauty pageants, crazy people and extreme obesity.
There is so much stuff that I see on the TV that makes me say 'only in America'.
And yeah I know that there are other countries where worse things happen, but it seems to me that some parts of America are so fucking tolerant of so much wrongness whilst being intolerant of other things that are rightly becoming accepted elsewhere - gay marriage for instance.
But the thing that scares me the most is watching documentaries about the youth. Especially young black people, any American prison I've ever seen on TV appears to be full of young black men, my sons age and younger, who often talk about killing each other and awful things they've seen on the street as if it's normal everyday stuff.
I guess for them it is.
I find that worrying and very very sad.
Some of the things I've seen and heard about the country made me very glad indeed to be English.
But lately I'm starting to think that we're heading the same way over here.
If we want our country to have a decent prosperous future then we need to invest in our youth. It sounds like a cliche but the children are the future, and if you don't take care of them - by giving them decent chances and choices in life you're gonna get screwed when it's their turn to run the country or work and pay taxes that keep the place afloat.
Crime rates, underage drinking, poverty, lack of education, teenage pregnancy and drug use are linked.
It's also true that a lot of those things occur out of boredom, lack of choice and low aspirations. Many young people nowadays live in areas of high density population where unemployment rates are high and the local schools are performing badly in terms of pupils achievements.
It's a downward spiral of low expectations and outcomes that's starting at a younger age with each new generation.
One of my previous jobs was working for a community based charity that targetted young people who were perceived to be at risk of, or already involved in criminal activity by setting up Youth Inclusion Programmes. Since I was employed at the start of a new project part of the role was to talk to the police, youth offending team, schools and councillors and obtain anti-social behaviour and crime statistics for the area.
As a charity that relied on funding we needed to be able to prove there was a need in the chosen area, and then over time show that the work we undertook had an effect on those statistics.
The work was essentially in two parts, young people who were referred into the project by the police and YOT - these kids were the ones to whom we would offer an intensive service that involved mentoring, and the other part was to set up and run community based activities that were open to any young person who wanted to attend.
It took about six months to get things properly up and running. Some young people were easier to reach then others, but once it was in place we had ALL the kids from the area who were known to the police involved, coming to our sports sessions, youth groups, working with us in school, some were even working towards recognised awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh.
We helped these kids stay out of trouble by keeping them entertained.
Although I no longer work there the project - and several others run by the same charity around the city - are still running and doing great things. I could write about individuals I personally mentored and achievements they made but this would end up being an epic post, lets just say it still makes me very happy to know I played a part in helping them on the right path.
I occasionally see some of the young people around and they are all doing well. Yes there are some for whom it doesn't work, but mostly it does.
And yes, those statistics did indeed drop.
And really all we did was give them something productive and entertaining to do with their spare time that gave them a choice other then petty crime and anti-social behaviour.
And then . . . .
Today on the news I hear the government are cutting funding to youth services by FOUR MILLION pounds.
Way to fucking go.
All this will do is increase the levels of boredom, and lack of productive activities for our kids and force closure of the remaining youth centres, and what will the end result of that be ?
Bored kids getting into trouble.
(Update in light of recent events: Much worse. Once again I was right.)
Because it will be the youngsters from the poorer families in the deprived areas where the youth club is their only alternative to hanging around the streets who suffer. The ones who need the free services because for whatever reason their families cannot afford to be paying for expensive clubs and sports centres.
Even if they could young people are often quite territorial, they like to socialise and meet with their friends in their local area, and a lot of built up urban areas are lucky to have a park, never mind a sports centre, cinema or the like.
And of course the other important service that youth workers provide is taking the time to get to know the young people and their problems, and offering alternatives and solutions. They are crucial in identifying issues that need specialised help, like drugs workers and health advisers and can direct young people to other services that they are often unaware of such as sexual health. Sometimes they identify victims of child abuse, their role goes way beyond organising activities.
In Hampshire alone this will mean the loss of 150 youth workers and Connexions advisers. Connexions is a service that helps young people access jobs and further education.
The announcement said that services to disabled youngsters won't be affected.
Well I guess that's good news for them but they are rarely the kids who end up in trouble, and if you're disabled there is other help available to you and your family. In this country if you as an adult are unable to work because you are caring for another person who is disabled there are extra benefits you can claim, and there are many charities that offer all kinds of help.
Living in a high rise flat in a crap area where there's nothing to do and no green spaces with three siblings, one parent and no money qualifies you for nothing.
Apart from a shitty life.
Education might be a way out, as long as your school isn't subject to government cuts that mean there are 40 kids to every teacher and the disruptive kids ruin every lesson because there's no money left to fund pupil referral units that specialise in helping them.
The other 'sweetener' to accompany this bitter pill is that instead of 4 million given to youth services, which generally run centers and offer services that are available to all, the government is going to give 1.8 million to youth charities. They do great things, as I said it was a charity that I worked for, but often with charities the work will be aimed at a particular group to the exclusion of others. Charities are required to bid for funding, so there is no guarantee that the money will go where it is most needed. If the worst and neediest area has no charity based within it to apply for some of that money then none is going to go there.
In the same news bulletin was the announcement that the Hindhead tunnel opened today.
This cost THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY MILLION pounds.
|This'll come in handy when no-one can afford a car anymore.|
And we are also reported to be spending around NINE BILLION pounds on the various venues etc needed to host the Olympics next year.
Lately twisted priorities seem to be a bit of a recurring theme for me, but this, takes the proverbial fucking biscuit.
Lets invest in roads and stadiums to impress the rest of the world.
And who gives a fuck that our young people are fast becoming a wasted generation with nothing to look forward to apart from criminal records, drugs, unemployment, teenage pregnancy and prison.
We need to start making some serious investments in our schools, and that means paying teachers a decent wage as well as the buildings, and stop cutting back on the services that provide for those most in need.
When's the next election 'cos I think I'd make a much better job of running this country then the fuckwits doing it now.
If Americas's screwed then Britain is being royally fucked up the arse.