Super centres deliver super youth work

Jeremy Glover
Friday, February 19, 2010

Something that has changed for the better during the 30 years I worked at Bolton Lads & Girls Club was our relationship with the local council.

We used to be at war but now we work well together and deliver all kinds of additional targeted projects as a partnership, which has been beneficial to young people.

Back in the 1970s, old-fashioned class politics got in the way of our work.

Bolton was old Labour through and through, and we were working with the poorest kids in town. You would have thought it would have been a winning combination.

But local councillors didn't appreciate the club, and the needs of the kids came a poor second to class war and settling old scores. The club's management committee used to be run by local mill owners - the enemy - and even though this was no longer the case, old prejudices died hard and, if there were cuts to be made, we were first in the queue.

Today, thank goodness, it is a different story. The officers and councillors who run the council are young, bright and pragmatic.

As for changes in the service, as always, it is vulnerable. The decline in communities, the isolation, the chaotic family lives have given us more and more young people who desperately need the type of support they can only get through targeted provision.

However, developing targeted work at the expense of the universal offer leaves the whole service vulnerable; targeting our resources at fewer and fewer young people gets us to the point where we could vanish altogether.

But I have seen the future. The highlight of my career has definitely been the building of the new Bolton Lads & Girls Club. The club was originally opened in 1889 and by the 1990s it was dirty, semi-derelict and inadequate. Basically, it was rubbish and no longer suited the needs of young people.

From the day the new club opened in 2002, everything changed. Not just the number of young people who poured through the doors - an impressive 3,000 every week - but more importantly attitudes changed, to each other and to what was possible.

That's why the latest Myplace youth projects are so important and why we must make them a success. If they are, then I am sure more will follow and we can start to give ordinary young people just what they so consistently - and reasonably - ask for: somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.

Jeremy Glover was chief executive of Bolton Lads & Girls Club until February 2010. He is now chief executive of OnSide North West

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