The Lost Boys and Girls

In Great Britain, we have more than one million 16-24 year olds unemployed. Ouch. Over 1,000,000 young people with no jobs or even the prospect of finding training in our country today. More than a million fresh minds and strong, able bodies just lay about in their beds, dossing on street corners and falling into the dangerous mental state of feeling worthless – at risk of following the inevitable path to depression, petty crime and susbstance misuse.

Remember the audience at Live Aid? Well imagine that, and another 13 Wembley stadiums crammed with people who just want a chance at starting their first job. That’s what we’re faced with in this country.

But theres nothing the government can do about it, because the last Labour Government were irresponsibly spending blah blah yawn. Are you sick of hearing these politicians explaining, justifying and excusing the problems instead of just getting on with sorting stuff out?

Look around your community now and have a think for 2 minutes about the things that need fixing, tidying up or replacing. How many vulnerable members of your community would benefit from having somebody come round and take them shopping, or redecorate their front room or cut their grass? How many charities need extra workers but can’t afford them? How many small struggling local businesses could be saved from going under if they had an extra member of staff or two helping in the battle?

Think of the insanity of having 1,000,000 young, fit and capable people who are desperate to work being forced into idleness – doing nothing of any value – at the same time as being paid government funds for their humiliation and desperation via the jobseekers allowance, when there is plenty of stuff that needs doing out there in our local communities.

You couldn’t make it up, it’s a disgrace and it is madness but it is real. It is actually happening right now. This pathetic, desperate scenario is probably what the word “ineptitude” was invented for. And hark at this – there isn’t even a plan in place to deal with the problem of youth unemployment, so that startling number of 1,000,000 is going to get even bigger.

If you’re in your mid to late 20s or any age older than that, try to remember when you left school and had options and opportunities. When your head was full of ambitions and fuzzy ideals of where your life was headed. Try and compare that optimism you enjoyed against the closed door society that todays youth are facing. The anger, frustration and resentment is growing by the day amongst them. Last years UK riots will look like a Morris Dance when this particular boil comes to a head.

Back to your community for a minute then. Could you not do with those pot holes filling in? What about the area of town that’s daubed in graffiti, used as a tip, could we not tidy it up and give it a lick of paint? Could we not open a community orchard, a community allotment, a community meals on wheels, a community driving school, a community recycling academy? Yes, actually, very easily we could. We could put these youngsters to work in a heartbeat – if anybody within government was actually looking at the problem.

But, most alarmingly the governments attitude to this is to ignore it and press ahead with their unpopular and far less urgent policies on NHS reform, Lords reform and “cutting the deficit.”

These young folk need to be given something to do with their days whilst the economists get on with fixing the deficit. They need to know what clocking in, being part of a team, doing something worthwhile, getting a bollocking, getting rewarded and accomplishing something feels like. Otherwise they will never work. They will become unmanageable after ten years of never working. They will become depressed, addicted to something and a drain on society – possibly bringing up a family in their own image. Ignoring this issue is just not an option.

So how hard can it be to set up a group of team leaders in each community and get the young people to come along in a morning and start fixing the place up? Surely it can’t be that hard to do. The problem is – we are being tricked by the media and the government – we are being told that there are lazy, useless, unpleasant people who don’t want to work who are scrounging all our taxes for their benefits. There is an element of society who are like that, we know because we’ve seen them shopping in their pyjamas. But for this shambolic government it is extremely convenient to have us believe that our 1,000,000 unemployed youths fall into this category too.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The 1 million are made up of people who have given school their best shot, most have gone through college and now find themselves with nowhere else to take their energy, their positivity and their physical power. It’s criminal.

How many local charities and community groups could do with some free labour? How many schools and nurseries are desperate for a pair of extra hands? Local governments, local swimming baths, canals and river wardens, libraries, parks and gardens all need a few extra bodies to help them. There is no excuse for these 1,000,000 people to be doing nothing. It’s a clear case of a lack of imagination that is keeping these youngsters out of work and training.

I hear the government talking about our need to become a manufacturing nation once again. Well no offence dickheads, but you have 3,000,000 unemployed and every single one of them is getting paid to do nothing – and most of them want to work, they can’t stand being stuck in the house, isolated from the outside world day in day out.

So lets manufacture stuff, build the factories and invest in Britains future with a ready made labour force of 3 million people. Lets do that. Lets stop talking about the problems and get busy fixing them. We could make Britain “Great” again, but not if we carry on allowing this kind of stupidity to be considered “the norm.”

“How are we going to pay for it?” asks the inevitable doubting Thomas who’d rather see us stay in this balls up. Well, lets think about that one for a second. Tory Chancellor George Osborne pulled another £10,000,000,000 (Ten Billion) from out under a rock to help bail the Euro out again a few weeks ago. It now looks as though the Euro is going bust, along with the hundreds of billions we’ve already put in to aid its recovery. So come off it. Enough of the “we can’t afford *________” (*fill in crucial government cost as appropriate) excuse.

We’re already paying over 1,000,000 unemployed lads and lasses a “wage” to do absolutely nothing. It just needs a bit of leadership, imagination, passion and investment and this country could utilise its unemployed to become one of the worlds leading workforces, as we once were under Queen Victoria.

Money is sat in the Bank of England that could get these young folk doing some work and in return – getting the economy shifting. Lets use it effectively on this most urgent purpose instead of constantly, miraculously “finding” billions upon billions of pounds to bail out banks and far away countries. Lets help the kids, here, and now. There is no alternative.


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Author of The Clitheroe Prime Minister, and columnist in Northern Life magazine.

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