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Children shut out of playground

Churchyard and Playground: closed due to vandalism

Are our children failing us or are we failing them?

My grandpa, always fond of a saying, said that ‘the devil finds work for idle hands to do’ and maybe that’s what’s happened in our little rural, Cornish village where both the playground and the churchyard have had to be padlocked because of damage and defacement.

The disappointment in the village is palpable; villagers can’t quite believe that there are those living here who would resort to such vandalism. The ugly mess (this is not an artistic Banksy at work) is being blamed on teenagers who are seen hanging around as the evenings are drier and lighter. Why would these kids stoop to such lows for their own entertainment?

It is interesting that a committee of MPs found that councils in England have cut funding for youth services by 40%. The Guardian has reported today in the wake of two serious youth crimes over the Bank Holiday weekend that in actual fact more than 100 councils have cut their youth funding by a startling 91%. The story goes on.

Vandalism by teenagers is not a new phenomenon, I remember it being a feature in my childhood (not by me I hasten to add) I suppose I felt as though it wasn’t as prevalent these days due to all the activities that are available for kids. The tide seems to be taking a worrying turn, though.

The question is what are we going to do about it? Kate Devlin in The Telegraph reported amongst its health pages in 2009 that:

‘Teenagers who belong to youth groups and other clubs lead happier lives and are less likely to drink or smoke.’

I believe it’s time for the community to step in, we can wait around for the councils and the government to do something but we could be waiting for some time. Rural communities are strong and we need to think creatively about how we can provide support for our young people.

In our village we started a wonderful Messy Church around 8 years ago, some of the children who have grown up as part of this Messy community are now getting older so we have just started an after school youth club for them aged 8 – 12. The group is going really well and is well-loved by the young people who come. The idea for this is that then as they reach 13 we will start a new group for them providing a safe, friendly, open space for them to live out and enjoy their teenage years without having to resort to the boredom of dangling on a swing made for a pre-schooler!

In the meantime I feel as though we, as a nation, are failing our young people. Javed khan from Barnardo’s says that

“Taking away youth workers and safe spaces in the community contributes to a ‘poverty of hope’ among young people who see little or no chance of a positive future.”

Teenagers are often too old to have their every move monitored but in some cases not mature enough to manage their time constructively. I, for one, would like to be an agent of hope for our young people setting up safe spaces for them to develop and grow, whether the government is funding it or not there must be a way.


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