The report had five recommendations for the new government. Each should increase youth social action opportunities across the UK. This is a target the government is vocally committed to supporting.
The Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, acknowledged the report (without indicating any interest in its recommendations) and went on to make his big announcement.
He told us that the government has just put aside £1 million to support youth social action initiatives across the UK.
He then told us that he recognised the million pounds couldn’t solve everything, so it would help with specific action in the East of England because that is where the least social action is happening with young people at the moment.
This is where my dismay began to set in. It doesn’t relate to the proposition, but the solution:
£1 million always sounds impressive. However, you couldn’t announce less.
And, put in perspective, it’s the cost of a medium-sized family home in West London. Yes, he’s put aside the cost of a medium-sized family home in West London to help solve the problem of disenfranchised young people in the UK.
It makes you wonder how we got to the point where that could sound sufficiently impressive to not be simply shameful coming from the lips of a minister of the world’s ninth richest nation?
How did we set our aspirations so low? Could we have side-lined the issue any further? I must check out whether slug pellets get a bigger subsidy.
Could he not have simply said: ‘and today I am pleased to announce that we will tokenise the issue of youth social engagement’?
Of course, it is not politically savvy for me to write this. But I can’t help wondering why, by contrast, it is politically savvy for a minister to get away with committing such a relatively trivial sum to empowering the next generation of citizens without a shocking outcry.
Instead we’ll stand around looking grateful for their choices around our money.
Yet to make such an announcement six months after he cut a much smaller amount of funding from our school program (Giving Nation) that has been engaging forty thousand young people a year in six hundred schools – and would have returned more than a million for charity in the process – is galling.
If that sounds bitter, I promise you I’m bigger than that: as a citizen I just can’t get my head around the differential between the needs of our young people facing an unprecedented future of social flux and the cost of a medium sized family home in West London. It makes the whole enterprise look pitifully trivial and our collective priorities meaningless.
We have overpriced the housing plot, privatised the political plot, and lost the social plot.