THE NATIONAL YOUTH AGENCY: Comment - Making a splash

By TIM BURKE

| 22 January 2003

It's common enough to hear youth work projects bemoan the amount of time and effort spent on formfilling and number-crunching exercises that take them away from what they see as the core of their work. So it is to be hoped that when that evidence collection gives a clear message, that policy-makers will take the appropriate action.

Last week we received the latest figures indicating the success of the Splash Extra programme, those summer activity schemes providing sports and arts activities on disadvantaged estates. If the Independent is to be believed the results 'far exceeded' expectations - overall there was a 5.2 per cent fall in crime in these areas. In Avon and Somerset there was a fall of 31 per cent in street crime in Splash areas and a 51 per cent rise in parts without a scheme.

If the Department for Culture, Media and Sport can tell us that there were 2.5 million young person hours of activity funded at a cost of 2.60 per young person per hour, then I'm sure someone in government can tell us how much money was saved by the police and criminal justice system.

It's much harder to put a price on the benefits to the individual of having a life-enhancing experience or indeed of not being a victim of crime.

Encouragingly, Tessa Jowell at the DCMS does not simply justify the scheme in financial terms but recognises that the experiences offered by youth programmes are simply a good thing for the people concerned: "Our task is to see how we can sustain and extend this approach," she comments.

Quite. So let's see this logic applied and have programmes like Splash taken away from the munificence of the lottery-playing public and made a part of what we as a culture offer young people. Let's see an end to the situation where young people's expectations are raised over the summer, only to be let down come September. Let's see the commitment of youth workers rewarded with the prospect of jobs that mean they can plan their lives and careers rather than scrabble around for summer pocket money.

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