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Can social investment really change the world?

"There are few moments like this when something happens that can really change the world". That was the proclamation of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude last summer as plans gathered pace to develop the UK market for social investment. Was he going a bit over the top? Perhaps; but only perhaps.

Ghosts of Labour system are very much present

After a great deal of deliberation and consultation, the Department for Education has at last pumped out the latest governmental aspirations for young people in England. Released last month, Positive for Youth was quite rightly praised in this space by Maggie Atkinson a fortnight ago.

The script can be judged only by its performance

One week into the new year and here at the office we are back and already trying to remember what - however briefly - not being at work was like. We are still digesting a flurry of consultation materials issued by government in the run-up to the break, wondering what to say, and more importantly what to do, in response.

Guidance is vital to turn youth policy into action

Nine months after its conception last March, the government's youth policy arrived into this world six days before Christmas, not exactly kicking and screaming and without much fanfare. Positive for Youth was born after what seemed an interminable but thoroughgoing consultation with the youth sector and young people alike.

Workers juggle the personal and the political

Times may change, but the challenge for something we call youth work remains the same. Most youth workers know that if it becomes too individualised (just focusing on supporting young people at a personal level) or too instrumentalised (expected to deliver a range of social objectives, such as crime prevention), it ceases to be youth work.

'Moment of madness' is in danger of recurring

Basing policy on evidence seems straightforward. But we continue to see politicians speak out on issues with the scantest of evidence and with particular audiences in mind. The most extreme example of late was the coverage about gangs after the summer unrest.

Jobs famine deepens the generational rift

Just as youth unemployment hits a record high, fanning fears that Britain's young people could become a "lost generation", the government has scrapped the default retirement age. So more older people are now competing for fewer jobs with the rest of the workforce.

League tables can be a force for good if given more care

League tables appear to be flavour of the month. The Department for Education published local authorities' three-year performance averages for children in care against 15 indicators a fortnight ago. And then children's minister Tim Loughton last week signalled his support for league tables for youth services at the Confederation of Heads of Young People's Services annual convention, which would be scored at least in part by young people.

Long-term support cures hopelessness

After the long summer, there is much on which to reflect. The riots have focused on the issues that should be front of mind for all of us - helping disadvantaged young people reach their full potential.

Opportunities to engage would stop the rot

In the last day of August, former Cabinet minister David Blunkett launched his ideas for a national volunteering programme as a mechanism for responding to the riots earlier the same month, in which young people played a significant part.

Riot response requires long-term solutions, not knee-jerk policies

The violence across English cities this month triggered its own riot - of condemnation, debate and knee-jerk policy pronouncements. In the days that followed the first outbreak in Tottenham, an exercise in national soul searching took place through the media. Yours truly, for one, did the breakfast TV paper review on Sky News.

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