Young people growing up in the noughties must be forgiven for
suspecting that the authorities and the public divide them neatly
into two categories: good – in which case their needs and wishes
are largely ignored; and bad – in which case they are banned,
tagged, ordered and vilified.
But now a leaked draft version of the youth green paper, seen this
week by Community Care, suggests that someone in New
Labour is trying hard to find a “third way”. There is much in the
draft to be commended.
For a start, the young loiterer’s lament “but there’s nothing else
to do around here” appears to have finally struck a chord. In a
welcome counterweight to the plethora of banning orders, curfews,
tags and antisocial behaviour orders, local authorities are to be
given statutory responsibilities for ensuring there are “positive
activities” for young people in their area. These will be decided
locally, but are likely to include two hours of “supported,
purposeful activities” each week, a similar quota of sport or
physical activity and a “range of safe and enjoyable places to go”.
Other provisions include “putting more purchasing power in the
hands of young people” by giving them a smart card with which to
choose and buy their own services, and a shake-up for the
In general, the green paper seems intended to support and empower
young people – something of a U-turn for a government wedded to the
stick, rather than the carrot.
But some habits die hard – there is much talk of “responsibilities
as well as rights” – in other words, these rights are not absolute
– and of youth support teams “focused on prevention”. And there is
worryingly little about who will pay for the new services. But in a
month in which four people have died at the hands of out-of-control
groups of young people, perhaps this is the best compromise we can