OPINION

Young people deserve support and investment

Posted On 08 Sep 2021 at 2:29 pm

We know the last 18 months have been incredibly difficult for young people – so we’re working incredibly hard to support them.

Whether that’s through challenging the government’s response to covid-19 in our schools or by opening a youth employment hub to connect young people to jobs, we want young people to thrive.

Our work demonstrates our values: children and young people deserve support and investment.

We put forward funding for a rebuild of Brighton Youth Centre in our budget, working in partnership with Brighton Youth Centre and Onside Youth Zones.

It’s a really exciting project, which involves significant investment from the council and donations from the public. But government inaction is holding us back – despite their pledges to invest in future generations.

After 11 years of cuts from government, leading to a 71 per cent reduction in spending in youth services across the country, budgets are stretched.

In many places, youth centres have closed. So the government’s £500 million Youth Investment Fund, which they proudly announced two years ago last week, was tentatively welcomed by the sector.

But while government officials have repeatedly released statements to say the fund is on its way, so far no youth organisations have seen the £500 million materialise.

The government recently opened up applications for use of just £30 million of the fund – but only if new youth centres could be built by March 2022.

So last week I wrote to government minister Baroness Diana Barran urging her to release details of the fund and give us the information we need to progress with building a brand new youth centre in the city.

While government dither, we continue to support youth projects, from boosting mental health and education teams to amplifying youth voice.

But with budgets pushed to the limit, government needs to come good on their funding promises, to truly undo the damage of cuts and the impact of covid-19 – so our young people can secure a better future.

Sadly, government inaction also typifies the response to supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children too – and we continue to rally against it.

Councillor Hannah Clare

Last week, I spoke at a demonstration in our city against deportations – highlighting once again that so many in our city stand for welcome and inclusion.

In particular, I wanted to share my frustration with regards to how the Home Office are treating child refugees in our very city.

It cannot be forgotten that, with less than 24 hours’ notice, the Home Office commissioned a premises in Hove at the end of July.

They described it as an extension of a facility in Kent in order to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children pending their transfer to other local authorities.

Upon learning of the Home Office actions, immediate and urgent conversations took place between senior officers of the council and the Home Office.

The leader of the council, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, and I have now twice written to Home Office ministers to seek answers to urgent and far-reaching questions.

Council staff and voluntary groups have continued regular contact with the Home Office regarding safeguarding and welfare at the site.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

Again, we know the voluntary nature of the National Transfer Scheme rota to accept refugee children means it fails to meet its purpose.

But when asked to introduce a mandatory scheme, with proper funding, the Home Office refused.

According to data I’ve seen, Brighton and Hove is one of less than 20 councils who take the amount of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children that the government asks us to place.

What’s more, this is done without adequate funding and support from government.

There has to come a time where the government recognise that they need to do more to support child refugees.

From climate change to conflict – or situations like in Afghanistan – we know crisis will force people to seek sanctuary.

Last week, Phélim spoke about how you can support refugees arriving from Afghanistan and I wanted to emphasise how thankful we are for all the community and voluntary sector organisations who provide support. I truly believe it is the vibrant third sector that makes Brighton and Hove what it is.

So it’s fitting to note that Sunday (5 September) was the International Day of Charity. I will be making donations to a few close to my heart.

The BetterPoints app

For many charities, it isn’t just cash donations that are helpful – sharing their work, donating goods to their charity shops or volunteering your time and skills are all brilliant ways to get involved.

You can also support some charities in the city by using the BetterPoints app – as walking, running, cycling or using public transport generates you points that you can donate.

As we look to supporting our communities, once again it’s local action that demonstrates Brighton and Hove will always go further than the government to help those in need.

Councillor Hannah Clare is the Green deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council and chairs the council’s Children Young People and Skills Committee.

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