October bulletin

Posted: 19/10/09

The Importance of Youth Clubs

Young people from the Avenues Youth Club staged a show of fashion, dance and music at the Tabernacle last night, to celebrate Back History month. The Avenues club operates in a very challenging environment and I am today calling on Westminster Council to re-think the level of support they are offering to it.

If we are to break the cycle of youth anti-social behaviour and support schools and families in promoting education and skills, we need well-resourced youth clubs, offering a range of activities throughout the week.

This can't be done on thin air, despite the enormous contribution made by staff and volunteers. Stretch our youth facilities too thinly, and we pay the price on the streets. We are a long way from having the gang problems associated with inner city America (or even other parts of London and Manchester) but that does not mean some of these problems do not exist, and that there is not a real ‘post-code' based tension between some groups of young people. We have to face these realities and make sure that our services are equipped to prevent where possible, and take enforcement action where necessary.

Housing

One in every nine London households is on a housing waiting list. That is just one of the shocking facts in the National Housing Federation's latest housing facts booklet, Home Truths, which I launched for them in the House of Commons last week.

Police and our children

Stop and search makes an important contribution to tackling crime - and most young people appreciate this, since they are the most frequent victims of crime. Yet the relationship between young people and the police is often soured when stop and search is either over-used or used clumsily. I have brought together senior police officers, representatives of the youth and community protection services, and some of the young people themselves, to discuss how to improve this important relationship.

Advice services and Legal Aid review

Last week I spoke at the London Advice Alliance conference on current issues facing advice services and the Legal Aid review. One of the key challenges is to make the case for investing in good advice services as an alternative to the cost of court cases, homelessness, ill health and so on which develop if problems are allowed to escalate.

London faces much more severe challenges than the rest of the country because of our high population turnover, high costs, diversity and high levels of mental ill health, so our need is greater but that just makes our case stronger.