Co-founder, senior advisor Community Links Kevin Jenkins supports generic youth clubs

PUBLISHED: 10:17 25 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:42 25 June 2014


Not so long ago Newham had a strong and extensive network of generic youth clubs spread across the borough.

A generic club offers a mixed programme of arts, sports, leisure and social education activities as well as a safe place for young people to meet, socialise and work together. The clubs (many of which were full time, opening each evening and often at weekends too) complemented the excellent and more focused work carried out by the uniformed organisations, neighbourhood youth groups and young people’s sport or hobby-specific clubs. Combined, all the clubs offered a comprehensive choice at a local level for our young people.

Sadly, a combination of a changing philosophy nationally from generic to focused work with young people at risk – ie young offenders, teenage parents, looked-after children, etc – cuts in public spending which fell especially heavily on the non-statuary youth service and, in Newham, a shift from a day-to-day network of provision to the every-child programme has led to the closure or reduced opening of clubs across the borough.

Those supporting these changes would argue that the generic clubs had a wishy-washy lack of focus and failed to make a difference for those attending. Supporters of the generic club would say that a good one offers all young people opportunities within a safe environment, with the needs of young people at risk responded to without stigma, and all young people experience a positive difference as a result of their involvement. Both sides, not surprisingly, can provide evidence to back up their claims.

For me, the early intervention and consistent opportunities offered by good generic clubs to young people in their immediate neighbourhood is far more effective in the long term than specialist provision or focused every-child programmes.

Such clubs may be boring, lack the hype of other opportunities and more expensive initially. However, the costs that they save in the long term through early intervention, helping prevent young people requiring specialist services and to develop into responsible citizens of the future will far outweigh the initial costs, in my view.

I am sure time will reveal which approach is more effective – hopefully it won’t be too late.

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