Inquiries can be intimidating for all parties involved. I remember the first time I went to an inquiry, which was for the Mid Staffordshire crisis where many lives were lost due to professionals mistreating patients. I came from the inquiry feeling like nothing was resolved, with questions left partially answered and everyone talking over each other!
But The Children’s Rights Inquiry: Apprenticeships, Jobs and Training was different. It was centered around people actually listening to one another.
It was based around two things:
- Why organisations and institutions are not meeting needs for children set in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child
- If London is the place for opportunities, why is it that young people are still being left behind?
What does it mean to be a ‘child’?
Being a child has meant different things over the last 100 years. In the past, Children would play outside with their friends collecting rocks but now they are facing a harsher reality. They will come home from school and sit in their bedrooms by their computer trying hard not to self-harm after Googling, ‘how to loose weight fast’ or reading their friends’ Status updates on the fun things they are doing.
These children or young people are either from Generation Z or good-old ‘moaning Millennials’ who graduated a few years ago and are now saving pennies for their first home.
Talented individuals have come out smiling from these generations, such as Facebook man — Mark Zuckerberg and homegrown ones in the UK. One of these homegrown ones is Nathan John Baptiste from North London, who started a tuck shop business in the comfort of the boys’ school toilets. Him and his employees were so good at selling Starbursts and cans of Coke that they made 50k! Another business-savvy boy from Gen Z is Akshay Ruparelia who started a property business while studying for his A-Level exams.
These guys took advantage of the opportunities and networks their cities or towns had to offer and ran with it. But what if you don’t feel inspired to do anything like this and feel lost? Many young people living in London feel like this and don’t know how to ask for help.
Growing up in London Town
Growing up in London can be fun but also challenging. It seems like everyone needs to get somewhere fast because they are late for work or school. Some get lost in this fast-paced lifestyle and feel they can’t access opportunities. Sadiq Khan’s mayoral election vision was to create a London that works for all not just the big city bosses. Having a bus driver father and a seamstress mother, he knows all too well how hard life in London can be. He has put plans together to build more affordable homes (90,000) with an investment of £3.15bn. He has also developed a campaign on knife crime calling it: ‘London Needs you Alive: Don’t Carry a Knife’ .
These campaigns and investment plans do little though to support young people who just need something to do — those that can’t afford a house anyway and are not into knife crime, but need a good job or opportunities to develop their potential. And yes, some of these young people do make mistakes and end up with a criminal record, but they still want to get by in the big city.
Hidden Youth (those not communicating)
The ‘Hidden Youth’ was discussed at the inquiry and is a group of people not on governmental books. Leaving school at 18, many choose not to get a job or go on benefits. Shabaz Ferozdin works with this group as a Youth Manager at Groundwork London, helping them get active about their lives. Her team finds jobs or training for these people. However, this can often be hard when many of them can’t focus on getting their lives together because of unaddressed mental health issues. However, Groundwork London aims high and perseveres, going through their problems — which is a job not many can do.
Thomas Redfearn works with NEETS: those who are not in education, employment or training. He is the Senior Public Affairs Officer at The Children’s Society. He puts those most vulnerable into two groups:
- Children in care
- Those leaving care — who are 40 per cent more likely to become a NEET.
Thomas is calling for the government to introduce a type of bursary for care leavers that take up an apprenticeship. It could aid in reducing homelessness and the risk of buying/dealing drugs or getting into prostitution.
Other groups of ‘Hidden Youth’
Refugees: Getting their immigration status approved can take a long time. Frequently, these people end up lost in translation when too many professionals work with them.
No tick box? There is a no tick box when claiming benefits to say if you’re a care leaver. This can lead to confusion and a loss of confidence.
As a young person, it can be hard to ask for help due to the fear of looking silly. But there are organisations that can help. Ruth Owen started ‘Whizz-Kidz’ because she herself could not get a proper wheelchair when she was younger and felt she missed out on a lot. Her organization not only provides good equipment but also good careers advice. One case study she spoke of concerned a finance graduate who got a job in the finance sector because Whizz-Kidz is in contact with this sector.
Another support organisation is the ‘Drive Forward Foundation’ that helps care leavers and youth offenders. Rachel Neuer is the programme manager and works with companies to place young people. They run ‘Aim Higher’ days where they can meet employers to get paid positions. On average, 450 of these young people a year and almost all of them will get a job.
Alex Goforth is the Programme Lead at the Anna Freud Centre, which is an organization that has been helping children and their families for 60 years. In one case study he worked with, a young person had to sign a document stating that the company she will be working with are not liable for any mental health issues she may have. Off course, this is extremely unfair as there may be many reasons why issues may arise.
Being part of the BME community can be tough in London. Mark Blacke is the Project Development Officer at the Black Training Enterprise Group which works with Black and Muslim men in the city. Due to high housing prices and low wages, they can’t afford to live and face discrimination in employment. He gives advice on how to approach applications and living well in London.
Jocelyn Hillman is CEO of Working Chance that works with female offenders. As female offenders find it harder to get jobs, this organization liaises with employers to give them advice when hiring an offender. She says that offenders will truly appreciate the chance and would never jeopardies their job, having learned their lesson.
Summary and comments section — Interview with Jesse Panda: 14-year-old boy on the Youth Panel
Questions I asked
- Tell me about yourself
- Where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
- What have you learned from being on the panel?
- Coming from the BME background, do you feel you have struggled?
‘I am currently in year 10 and I have an interest in performing arts. I got interested in spoken word poetry after I performed at the O2 and my church has really helped me to develop my talent. In the next five or so years, I see myself attending a Russell Group university to study the sciences. I want to keep poetry as a hobby. I do not feel like I have struggled as I have been to two schools that are very diverse. My current school teaches values of how to respect and inspire others,which helps. I am very glad to be part of the youth panel for the Greater London Authority (GLA) as it makes important changes at City Hall. They help me strive to find opportunities that I would not have found myself. My Mum also encourages me through this and I currently volunteer on Saturdays at my local YMCA, which boosts my confidence. Lastly, I feel like everyone has a talent, mine just happens to be performing arts thanks to my church and the GLA supporting me’.
All in all, I am glad I got to cover the inquiry and will definitely keep up to date with how these organisations lobby for change in the future!