As we reach the end of the year the Government is attempting to bring some festive cheer to young people. And let’s face it, they need it. It’s been a tough year and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better anytime soon.
After months of talking to the youth sector, local authorities, businesses and young people, the Government has set out its vision for a society that is positive about young people. But it’s going to be challenging. Ministers have been very clear that this has to be delivered with little investment from the public purse. The National Citizen Service aside, central government investment in out-of-school services for young people is about as scarce as good stuff on the telly over Christmas.
So what do we make of it? The fact that the policies of at least nine government departments are presented in the statement is to be applauded – but there is little in the way of clear, decisive action to improve the hand that young people have been dealt.
That’s why vinspired has joined NCVYS and some of its members to call on the Government to make sure every department and every local authority that is Positive for Youth publishes its own ‘youth action plan’. We’d like to see action that leads to real support for young people to reach their true potential and we want to see decision-makers be bold in setting out how their vision is going to be delivered.
Like many voluntary youth organisations, we at vinspired are working hard to lever in all the resources we can to deliver our own plan of action to support young people. All that we ask is that Government departments and local authorities commit to doing the same.
It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are endless examples of society’s fixation on either denying or augmenting reality.
Magazines are full of celebs who have been airbrushed beyond recognition. X Factor puts contestants’ voices through auto-tune to address suspect intonation (or “singing flat” as we peasants call it). Our only real experience of suffering comes from watching it all on our smartphones, sat on the sofa drinking coffee. Yes, from Saddam Hussein’s death to Johnny Knoxville’s latest goolie-crunching exploit, it’s all there. Reality from a safe distance.
That’s why volunteering has been an important part of my life. It keeps me grounded. It takes me out of my clean, tidy* everyday life and gives me first-hand experience and understanding of the problems faced by the more vulnerable members of society. I’ve helped people tackle issues, often not as an expert, but just as someone who is independent and imbued with a modicum of common sense and a strong work ethic.
*with the obvious exception of my desk, which is an absolute disgrace.
I was a Samaritan for four years. Sometimes I would support a one-off caller who had reached a short term crisis point in their lives – who was even suicidal – and play a pivotal part in helping them through that crisis.
But what I remember most clearly is the unremitting everyday grind of the single mum struggling to feed her kids, who had no-one to turn to for emotional support and encouragement; and the isolated pensioner who would go days without seeing another human being or receiving a call from an over-busy relative. Their suffocating isolation really brought home how trivial some of my every day challenges really were, and what a lifeline the Samaritans provided.
So… take a moment to think about those you know. Is there a family member you haven’t caught up with for a while? Do you have a friend who is feeling lonely or isolated? Pick up your phone. Give them a call or send them a text to let them know they are in your thoughts. It will make their day.
And don’t just do it because it is Christmas – put a few dates in your diary for 2012 and reconnect with them properly. It’s the best New Year’s resolution you could make.
At vinspired we have a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) for a reason. They don’t just hang around to look good, they get their hands dirty too…
On Friday 9th December the Board came to vinspired’s office in London to meet with staff and get involved in their work. The morning session began with the YAB looking at and feeding ideas into an important bid which our programmes team are working on.
This was a great warm up for what was to follow. The YAB fed in ideas for the design of our future vision for vinspired to propose to our trustees in the new year. This proved to be a really great opportunity for the team to get their teeth sunk in to a really important piece of ongoing work here. Their input has laid the foundations for the charity’s future development and ensures that young people’s views genuinely inform the direction we take going forward.
Young people really are at the heart of what we do here at vinspired. They continue to work alongside our Senior Management Team and our board of trustees; and going into 2012 and beyond we’re very confident that the Youth Advisory Board will ensure young people’s needs, wants and aspirations are at the forefront of our work.
We will be keeping you posted on the developments and the work that the YAB are doing over the coming months. Watch this space! In the meantime, you can follow us @vinspiredYAB for latest news from the team and information about how you can get involved.
Having spent the past four months visiting the Jobcentre once every fortnight, I’ve finally signed off and managed to achieve an elusive paid internship here at vinspired. After leaving university this summer with my degree in hand and optimistic plans for the future, the last thing I expected was being stuck on the dole with an outbox of CVs yearning for replies. So now I’ve signed off, I can tell you about my experience at the Jobcentre and how to survive.
The Jobcentre is a depressing place. Fact. Everybody there would rather not be. The whole experience starts by reeling off the reasons why you’re in the predicament of unemployment, what you have achieved so far and plans for the future. Make the most of this because that induction is likely to be the most communication you’ll ever have for the rest of your time ‘signing on’.
You’re told you’ll be given an advisor (this never happened) and you’re given a little grey booklet to document your job search, then sent on your way as another plus one on unemployment stats.
For the next two weeks you fill in the booklet, much like those teachers’ reports they gave to naughty children with all the jobs you have been looking at/applying for. You can also plan your disguise for next week’s appointment when you inevitably bump into somebody you know (this will happen – hide or embrace the fact that you’re in it together!).
Your second appointment will form the basis for the rest of your visits – sit down, wait, wait and wait some more. When your name is finally called, your job booklet is signed without being checked and you’re handed your next appointment date. Talking and eye contact are kept to a minimum.
The best thing about the Jobcentre though, has to be their loyalty rewards scheme. It would seem that the longer you’re unemployed the more freebies you get! There’s the discounted travelcard, funding for further study but best of all you can get a grant for a new suave suit worth up to £300!
When I did finally get my first opportunity doing a voluntary internship at young people’s charity, Catch22, I was told that I would have to sign off. Great, so gaining work experience is frowned upon, but stay unemployed and you get to travel around on the cheap, pretending you’re James Bond in a new suit. It just didn’t make sense.
After arguing my point several times over I was told that it would be ok as long as I reduced my intended hours and made sure I was available for my appointments. I would also have to state which travel and lunch expenses I was receiving so they could reduce my payments (due to my one day a week bar work). So I found myself gaining work experience but receiving less money – now that’s what I really would call a Catch 22 situation.
I could rant forever about how bad I think the system is. If David Cameron could try out a ‘Secret Millionaire’ type programme, whereby he could be donned in some cutting edge prosthetics, thrust into a Jobcentre and the results broadcasted live, I would definitely pay to watch!
The Jobcentre is a leech that sucks every bit of motivation and faith from you. If you don’t have thick skin you’ll become a lifeless drone, happy to accept your statutory fate. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can avoid the above symptoms by staying active and having faith that a job will finally arrive. The day will come when you can finally look back and laugh about your whole experience.
I’m using my paid digital internship at vinspired to make myself super employable so I never have to go back. They say there is no hell on earth… I beg to differ.
“Here I am, brain the size of a Planet, and they ask me to pick up a piece of paper” is my favourite quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it inspired my thoughts this week. Because, here in my pocket, is a device more powerful than the technology used to send a rocket to the moon. No – I’m not carrying a thermonuclear device capable of destroying what’s left of London after this summer’s riots: it’s my BlackBerry.
Very humbling thought, isn’t it, that our smartphones have more raw power than the computers that powered the Apollo space programme. If an alien landed in Westminster tomorrow (c’mon – you’re thinking John Redwood, aren’t you?), it could be forgiven for assuming that we’re all using this power to design skyscrapers and find the cure for cancer. Yet what do we do when we get our hands on the latest all-singing all-dancing muscle-beast of a phone? We text. We flirt. What we want to do more than anything else is to share our thoughts (of not more than 140 characters) with our closest friends and complete strangers. What we crave, beyond even talking to people, is to write. The same thing that drove the ancient Egyptians to invent papyrus.
I think said alien would return to its planet with a rather bemused smile on its face.
David agreed to support the campaign after Team v London leader Luke Harris spotted him on a Tube train and seized the opportunity to tell the MP (and the rest of the tube carriage) all about Team v.
He met Luke and his team at the Houses of Parliament yesterday (December 8) to hear more about their campaign to tackle food poverty. Team v leaders are setting up food hubs in community centres, offices and disused shops across the country. They have teamed up with local charities to ensure the food donated gets to the families who need it most before Christmas.
Luke says: “Christmas is a time of year when we all hope to enjoy those extra treats – huge dinners, mince pies, chocolates – but around seven per cent of all families in the UK can’t afford to celebrate Christmas at all . And with around one in five families in the UK living below the poverty line , many more will face a struggle to put Christmas dinner on the table. We’ve had a great response from lots of businesses and members of the public in central London already. But I’m grateful for Mr Miliband’s support in highlighting our campaign to make Christmas a little happier for some of our neighbours.”
David said: “Luke and the rest of Team v London are doing an inspirational job of tackling the problem of food poverty. They are a wonderful example of the positive contribution that dedicated young volunteers make to their communities and I wish them the best of luck with this important campaign.”
With unemployment amongst young people reaching 1 million last month, the government and the third sector are scratching their heads trying to think of ways to save this ‘lost generation’.
Introducing training to all NEETs and more apprenticeships for the jobless are just a couple of the ideas being bandied about. But as with all things in today’s society, the real issue, and indeed the missing link, is money. It’s all well and good to have ideas but who’s going to pay for them?
The common answer, it seems, is the over 60s.
Fuel our Youth is a new charity set up by three affluent over 60s. They suggest that the ‘very well off’ people of their generation donate their winter fuel allowance (WFA) to youth projects.
The suggestion that the older generation give their WFA to young people hasn’t gone down well with everyone. On Gransnet, an online forum for grandparents, glassortwo, summed up the feelings of some of his peers:
‘ I am spitting feathers here on behalf of all the people who receive Winter Fuel Allowance being asked from a charity to donate their allowance to the young unemployed!…When are the big fat bankers going to be asked to donate some of their big fat bonus to the young unemployed?’ glassortwo
It has also been suggested that older people in large houses should sell up and give their homes to the young so they have enough space to raise their families.
Does glassortwo have a point? Are we asking too much of the older generation and not enough of anyone else?
Sunday. I attend a second audition as a potential volunteer performer at the 2012 opening ceremony. About 14,000 of us started on this particular journey, and there is an extraordinary buzz of excitement. We are under strict instructions to reveal nothing about what we do at the auditions. “Tell people you’ve been wrestling anacondas” says the director.
Monday. My role encompasses IT as well as finance, and we are just about to commission a new contacts and grant management database. I spend a couple of hours planning the rationalisation and deduplication of our contacts and historic data. We have about 12,000 records on our old grants management database, plus another 4,000-odd on spreadsheets used for various events including our vInspired National Awards ceremony. All contact data will need to be cleaned and structured in Excel before we upload it into the new system.
Tuesday. I meet with my Commercial Director to discuss the Government’s new £1 billion package to get 400,000 young people into work. We were one of the delivery partners for the Future Jobs Fund and have been eagerly awaiting its replacement. The funding of the new programme is just 35% of that of its predecessor per placement: but with over 1 million young people out of work, we conclude that the scheme has potential to succeed if it can be administered inexpensively on a “light touch” basis. In the evening, I have a Rock Choir rehearsal. We have recently performed at the O2 and Wembley Arena, and tonight we learn about an amazing show we will be doing in March … which is top secret at the moment.
Wednesday. I attend a seminar on cloud computing. vInspired is rightsized at the moment in terms of servers, and we use Citrix for all our remote access. In the medium term, we will need to look at server virtualisation and cloud computing, and I want to keep abreast of these technologies as they develop. In the evening, I have a rehearsal for Beauty & The Beast – a local production in which I am playing Cogsworth. The costume is huge, and I can barely squeeze into the wings. I know I’ll be word perfect in a month … we open in a fortnight!
Thursday. I attend an investment conference. It is useful to benchmark our investment policy against the latest thinking, which confirms that equities are ideal for long term investment, but unsuitable for a horizon of less than twenty years. Most startling statistic is that half of all SMEs are financed on their owners’ credit cards.
Friday. We have a meeting of the Blog Group, led by our Head of Digital. We are trying to get a steady stream of interesting bite-sized entries on the vInspired blog which are well-written; express individuality; and cover a diverse range of issues and opinions. We agree on the next week’s entries, which are written by staff, directors and volunteers including a number of first timers – myself included. I hurriedly Google “Blogging for Dummies” …
This blog is based on an article which was published in Third Sector on 6 December
Apologies for the lateness of this blog as I have currently been doing mock exams and have been swamped with coursework, but fear not, I am back, I have emerged with from the rubble unscathed.Tuesday 15 November, marked the launch of nominations for the vinspired National Awards which celebrated extraordinary contributions that the most dedicated of England’s young volunteers make to their communities, their peers and the planet.
I, along with Craig, Janqui and a whole host of heroes from the vinspired team, joined the team at Biggafish in Shoreditch. We hung out with the Biggafish volunteers, and they explained the sort of work and projects they had been involved with. It was very exciting! It was really refreshing to see a group of young volunteers who were very engaged and keen to embrace volunteering.
For those who aren’t aware, Biggafish is a not for profit organisation with a focus on youth enterprise, urban live music and training for young people. They national tour is supported by vinspired umbrella. I have first hand experience of the events they have put on in the past. The work their volunteers do is genuinely amazing. This is testament of the hard work the vinspired team and Biggafish and all other people involved with projects, including the Youth Advisory Board, do. Let us be encouraged!
With Craig behind the camera, I made my first big screen appearance hosting the video for the day’s events, which included interviewing Tinchy Stryder and the volunteers at Biggafish. After many retakes, and sandwiches, we finally nailed the filming, which Craig masterfully edited, and is now up to view.
After patiently waiting, Tinchy Stryder arrived in his usual low key and humble fashion. He was asked questions by the volunteers centered on the recent London riots, his achievements, ambitions and volunteering. He was then interviewed by Lucrezia Millarini from London Tonight, who was more of a natural at interviewing than I was. Then it was the turn of the lovely Lorna, vinspired’s Head of Marketing, to make her big screen debut as she spoke about the national awards and really summed up the objectives and hit home on how beneficial they are.
Overall, I am very happy I was able to be part of the day, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day, it was a good way to de-stress from exams and to see the end product of the hard work carried out by the vinspired team.
The event helped to generate a great response from people who wanted to celebrate great young volunteers. So to make sure everyone gets a chance to nominate the deadline has been extended slightly until midnight on Monday, December 5. This is your last chance to nominate so don’t miss out!
Joseph Torgbor signing out!