Another Happy New Year?

The first day of 2012…

I am not religious, and do not usually take note of what religious leaders say but I do make an exception to this rule with Dr Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury), who I believe, actually gets it… and it was good to hear him use this prime time 5 minutes to further argue the case for young people, as he has already done several times over the last 18 months.

Dr Rowan Williams in his New Years speech referred to the August riots as “horrific”. But he argued that these riots showed us a face of our society we don’t like to think about – angry, destructive, lawless. He sees the riots and the behavior of those young people involved as being one facet of a bigger and much more heartbreaking problem. The young people involved in the disorder on the streets may have looked many, but he suggests, are a minority of their generation – the minority whose way of dealing with their frustrations was by way of random destructiveness and irresponsibility.

He asks us to wonder what kind of society we have that lets down so many of its young people? That doesn’t provide enough good role models and drives youngsters further into unhappiness and anxiety by only showing them suspicion and negativity.

I know what kind of society we have currently. One that is being driven by a coalition government, a government who were not voted into power, but one that has taken it in their hands to change the society we live in for ever. Their actions over the last 18 months show just how damaging their course is and will continue to be.

With over one million young people unemployed, EMA abolished, tuition fees tripled, Connexions under attack and youth services to be got rid of or to be sold off to the highest bidder, it is no wonder young people feel that this government, this society does not care about them.

The Archbishop urged us to recognise how our own actions can make a real difference to society:

“… being grown-up doesn’t mean forgetting about the young. And a good New Year’s Resolution might be to think what you can do locally to support facilities for young people, to support opportunities for counselling and learning and enjoyment in a safe environment. And above all, perhaps we should just be asking how we make friends with our younger fellow citizens – for the sake of our happiness as well as theirs.”

This then, our New Year’s Resolution? To actively support our local youth facilities and opportunities which, he argues, play a crucial part in a healthy society. We must not only fight and campaign for the hundreds of youth clubs under threat as a result of the current government’s policy of austerity, but that we do whatever we can to ensure others are aware of the devastation being felt by young people, by workers as a result of the swingeing cuts being implemented in youth services and other services for children.

This is a truly urgent task we all need to take ownership of before it is too late for our young people, too late for our youth workers and too late for our society.

Watch the Dr here and let me know what you think…