The Tories do seem to love a uniform.
So much in fact, it has got to the point where they want thousands of disadvantaged kids to join uniformed groups such as Scouts, Guides and Military Cadet forces. This is deemed controversial because due to austerity there has been a fundamental reduction in other non-uniform youth activities. According to DfE data, councils are expected to spend £416 million pounds on youth services — compared to £489 in the previous year — so why the bias towards uniformed activities? Why not invest in the other youth services they have cut to the bone?
This scheme seems to suggest that the Tories are systematically drafting the youth into a militaristic future. It is certainly a sinister thought that the Government is trying to dictate what youths should do in their spare time by ensuring the funding of youth services is under their control. Forcing disadvantaged kids into the military and other uniform-based activities seems indicative of a country that wants to emphasise its military zeal.
I can’t help but think that such a scheme would decrease the already small number of children from poor backgrounds going into university and getting professional careers — driving them instead towards military service and ‘uniform-based’ professions. Arguably, the emphasis should be on helping disadvantaged youths into apprenticeships and work experience schemes, with the aim of getting them into fields in which their demographic forms a minority.
The justification of the scheme is to stop disadvantaged youths pursuing a life of crime, but who is to say these specific activities would appeal to every youth? Arguably, this could be labelled as a pathetic attempt to put a plaster over a gaping hole. Austerity has disadvantaged these youths more than anything else, by taking away precious youth services that gave children a greater choice of what to do for extracurricular activities. The proposed scheme is also extremely exclusive to disabled people given that guides, cadets and scouts are known for their physical activities and being outdoorsy.
The proposed scheme feels more like a half-heartened attempt at making amends for the previous cuts. Undoubtedly, more funding and a selection of schemes are needed to break the poverty trap, but not this way.
This scheme expresses the Tories’ inadequacy to deal with poverty. It perpetuates an outdated belief which states that if you put a kid in uniform they will not be disadvantaged anymore. Furthermore, ‘forcing’ children into organisations that are known for implementing obedience and discipline implies that poverty is somehow a moral failure, to be corrected. This also perpetuates the stereotype that disadvantaged kids are troublesome and so would benefit from discipline and being ‘straightened’ out.
Of course, some may argue that there are many benefits to uniform-based activities. A survey from the Youth United Foundation, stated that members of these groups are more likely to enjoy social interaction and mix with people from different religions and demographics. It also commended such groups for creating lasting friendships and being a second home for many.
Still, the main problem arguably lies with the Government wanting to take full control by implementing what they think is right without consulting communities as to what would be best in their own neighbourhoods.