Tuesday, 03 July 2007

A youth centre in every neighbourhood? If like me you found the Respect agenda and its media coverage uncomfortably closely associated with young people, it's time for a rethink. That agenda is now being subsumed under the responsibilities of the Department for children, schools and families, the 'children's ministry'. But Polly Toynbee in today's Guardian urges us not to be sceptical, regarding this as 'one of the best changes' in the brief for Ed Balls, the minister in question. As the emphasis shifts from punishment to prevention, expect a breath of fresh air. Balls says: "Respect goes both ways - respect by young people for others goes together with respect for them by the wider community." He talks enthusiastically about plans for a good youth centre in every neighbourhood, started up with £150m taken from defunct bank accounts. I don't know anything about these defunct bank accounts, although I can think of another budget, a small matter of £20bn, from which a fraction might have been handy. But I do think that a youth facility in every neighbourhood - and a 'good' one at that - is far closer to common sense than a single nuclear submarine farting around somewhere in the ocean. Curiously enough, I was in a workshop about neighbourhood care for older people the other day, where there was discussion about funding for quality neighbourhood schemes like the one in Brighton and Hove. Asked why there seemed to be no government funding, one of the members of the scheme said with quiet irony, 'I think it's all gone to Trident.' And if I'm sceptical about anything at the moment, it's the government's ability to include older people in its agenda. In the meantime, with regard to the future of the Respect agenda and policy for young people, I'll trust Polly's optimism.

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