Telegraph Voices: Are we doing enough for young people in Sheffield?

In our latest edition of Telegraph Voices we asked a panel of experts: Are we doing enough to provide activities for young people to help keep them out of trouble?

Saturday, 13th January 2018, 2:05 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th January 2018, 2:10 pm
Patrick Meleady.

Here is what they thought. Share your views by commenting at the bottom of this article, email us at [email protected], tweet us @SheffieldStar or comment on our Facebook page.

Bob Pullin, Beauchief and Greenhill councillor and former youth magistrate, said: "Categorically no.

Paul Blomfield MP.

"Particularly not on Sheffield’s underprivileged council estates such as Arbourthorne, Batemoor, Firth Park, Gleadless Valley, Jordanthorpe, Lowedges and Parsons Cross, among others.

"Many disadvantaged youths in such areas are bored, alienated and feel themselves excluded from mainstream activities and society. Adding insult to injury, they feel permanently excluded from training and employment.

"Charities, churches and voluntary community organisations such as the Lowedges Terminus Initiative, do excellent work with the aged, mothers and babies groups, children's playgroups, minority groups and refugees.

"But focusing energy and resources on our excluded and lost teenagers and unemployed young adults is long overdue to our cost.

Lorean Biet, coun Bob Pullin and Pawel Van Der Steen.

"Our frustrated, ignored and alienated youth increasingly expresses itself in antisocial and criminal behaviour - graffiti on shops and public buildings, smashed shop windows, bus shelters, substance abuse, minor criminal damage and theft, threatening behaviour, threatening and unmanageable groups on street corners and shopfronts or more serious snatch thefts by scooter riders and road accidents involving stolen vehicles.

"The reactive responses by our society and communities - more community police, better detection, arrests, juvenile court appearances, the overstretching of community workers, social and probation workers, our criminal justice system - are further evidence of our continuing very costly failure to address the problem’s root causes.

"Our responses are short-term and ineffective in delivering a long-term solution, unless they are accompanied by earlier proactive engagement with young children and their families in their pre-adolescent years."

Lorean Biet and Pawel Van Der Steen, of the Sheffield Parkour Movement, said: "Providing activities for young people can be quite challenging, especially when the nature of those young people can be rebellious, untrusting and very much against most forms of authority or leadership.

Gail Gibbons.

"Throughout the years we have spent working in projects to help vulnerable children, we came to understand the difficulties those individuals are facing, such as fitting with in society, due to either their lack of funds, knowledge, family or education.

"This leaves them with a lot of energy and little opportunity to expend it. After getting to know some people in those situations, and getting closer to them, we found ourselves lucky enough to have the opportunity to give them another option than crime, violence and vandalism.

"We have been passionate about parkour since a young age. Young people find themselves bored, dreamless and hopeless. The projects I have been part of manage to offer those young people a positive, physical and mental way of expressing themselves and letting go of that vast amount of energy.

"I think we are doing what we can within our limits, to provide for young people, but we could do with better facilities, more activities and opportunities."

Paul Blomfield MP.

Patrick Meleady, manager of Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, said: "There is a diverse range of activities and opportunities available across the city provided by the statutory sector and other sectors, inclusive of the voluntary, faith, uniformed and community sectors.

"The provision ranges from activities in Museum Sheffield, in drama and dance, sports, recreational and leisure, youth clubs, operated by Sheffield Futures and others, activities in the libraries, out of school clubs and holiday provision, open access adventure playgrounds, music groups, eco and environmental initiatives, community festivals, to name but a few.

"We have seen however a diminution in provision across all areas, but especially in the statutory sectors, who have been hit hard under centrally imposed austerity measures. This in turn, has had a knock on effect upon all other sectors, including open access playgrounds like Pitsmoor Adventure Playground.

"It is not merely a matter of providing services for young people, but whether these services are truly inclusive and accessible. You can have fantastic activities and facilities but if they are out of the affordable reach of young people and their families, or if they are out of reach geographically and not representative of diverse young people and their voice and influence, nor inclusive, then they are not accessible.

"Young people have identified to me that where services are designed by and for young people, where they have a meaningful say and oversight, these prove to be highly effective."

Gail Gibbons, chief executive officer of youth support organisation Sheffield Futures, said: "We know that youth services in Sheffield are as vital as ever to young people. They provide a safe place for our young people to go in the evenings and a safe space to explore key issues which impact on them and their communities.

Lorean Biet, coun Bob Pullin and Pawel Van Der Steen.

"Youth services are constantly under pressure in times of austerity, along with other local services. It is essential that local communities support their youth clubs to engage with young people to ensure that this generation grow up with the skills, knowledge and attitude to succeed.

"We asked young people at our youth club at Com.Unity what they like most about their youth club and they told us that our supportive youth workers, group activities, having a safe warm space, seeing friends, opportunities to try new things and learn new skills were the most important things to them."

In a joint column penned by young people based at Westfield Youth Club, they said: "We don’t think there are enough activities as there is nothing to do when the youth club isn’t on. We see loads of people around Westfield breaking into flats.

"There’s always people making fires and ruining the local park. We would like the youth club to be open more and have more movie nights.

"We would also like to see a new football pitch and a food place in the area."

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said: "One of the concerns raised in my recent community consultation, the Big Conversation, was the loss of activities for young people - and its impact on them and sometimes on our communities.

"It’s not for lack of effort in Sheffield. We’ve got brilliant organisations that keep young people engaged in fun and rewarding activities. The inspiring youth workers and volunteers who provide youth clubs, guidance and advice for young people are doing all they can.

"But national funding cuts are harming youth provision deeply. Sheffield Council, which provides some services and helps fund other youth groups, has lost 45 per cent of its government grant since 2010.

"The youth budget has dropped from £12 million in 2010 to just under £4 million in 2016. Now the council are facing further cuts.

"Young people today face lots of challenges - from exam pressures to worries about their future. Social media creates problems too.

"As does easy access to an ever widening range of drugs. Youth activities can help them all - building confidence, developing social skills, and preparing to navigate a more complex life than older generations faced.

"And our communities benefit too. Disengaged young people can get sucked into causing trouble, like the motorbikes creating havoc in some neighbourhoods.

"The lack of activities is not an excuse for bad behaviour, but tackling the disengagement of some young people does make a difference.

"Investing in vital local services not only transforms lives; it saves money in the longer term. That’s why I’m calling on the Government to recognise the impact their cuts are having on young lives and on our communities - and to think again."

Gail Gibbons.