Author Archives: Linda Jack

No bright new dawn

Like all of us I have spent the last few days deeply impacted by the events in Manchester.
 
As a mother who has, like so many of us, lain awake waiting for the turn of the key in the lock to know, however old your kids are, they are home, I grieve for every young life that has been taken from us. Their loss is not just to their families, or communities, but to us all. John Donne puts it so beautifully ‘ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee’.
 
Youth should be a time of such optimism, such promise, such dreams, such fun, such excitement. Death is something that happens to old people, not you, you are invincible. Yet now, for so many children and young people – no bright new dawn. 
 
So as shock turns to anger, grief to the need to understand why, the narrative changes accordingly.
But what is often missing in debates which feature the great and the good, as this Independent article highlights is the voice of the very young people we are concerned about. 
 
An exception was the interview (47:30 in) on Radio 4’s PM programme with a young Libyan who expressed the kind of views I have heard so many times over the years working with Muslim young people. I was also struck by this analysis from Nafees Ahmed.
 
It is clear that the Prevent programme is failing and just throwing money at it won’t help – our party has it right in focusing on community engagement. But many of us are very disappointed that there is no mention of our policy on Youth Services in our manifesto. 
 
As Children and Young People Now report, it was a youth and community worker who first warned the authorities about  Salman Abedi, to quote NYA CEO Paul Miller
Posted in News | 4 Comments

This week is Youth Work Week

This week is Youth Work Week. For most of my youth work career a pivotal point in the calendar, a chance to celebrate the difference good youth work can make to young peoples’ lives.

This year in some ways is no different, the theme is Fair Chances – how youth work helps young people to brighter futures and the National Youth Agency reminds us of the contribution youth work can make in education, out of school, social action and school to work transition. What is different is the barren landscape that is youth work across the country.

When I started as a youth worker in Luton we had 70 full time workers and hundreds of part time workers in Bedfordshire. Running the youth club in a town centre facility that was open all day and evening, we offered a safe haven and a place to blossom to hundreds of the town’s most vulnerable young people. Not only that, many of those young people were inspired enough to go on to become youth workers themselves.

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Opinion: What’s worse than a watery grave?

The news this week has been dominated by the horrendous tragedies of over 1000 deaths in the Mediterranean. With the notable exception of the vile Katie Hopkins, this tragedy has moved the hardest hearts, not least because of the number of children who have died.

For me it’s far closer to home and I confess I have spent the last couple of days fighting back the tears. I have the enormous privilege of caring for two children who made that same journey. And the danger for them didn’t begin when they climbed into a rickety boat, it began as they crossed the Sahara, in cars carrying maybe 30 passengers, many hanging on to the outside, where if one of them fell off they would be left to die in the scorching sand. Or in the insanitary, cruel and overcrowded cells of a Libyan detention centre.  And then, having reached ‘safety’ sleeping rough and eating out of bins while all around you people are dying.

As a family we have heard the horrendous stories of the children who are now part of our family, neither of them knowing where their birth families are, both very clear that they were prepared to take the risk to get here because the alternative was worse. Both now lauded by their schools for being role models for other students with their diligence, good humour and determination to succeed.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 20 Comments

Change: How?

change howAt a time when many of us activists complain about apathy and the electorate complains about us ‘all being the same’, we see UKIP winning the Euros, a huge turn out in the Scottish Referendum, the Greeks electing Syriza, the Spanish enthralled by Podemos and Marine Le Pen taking ground in France.

For me this is an obvious symptom of a largely elitist political system, itself often controlled by powerful vested interests, leaving ordinary people feeling disempowered and disaffected. For some the answer is to join Russell Brand in his protest non vote, for others it is to vote for parties that will give the incumbents a kicking, will offer hope that maybe things could be different.

Posted in News | Tagged | 12 Comments

Remembering Sarah – Thanking Nick

Almost two years ago I arrived home in the early hours from the Children and Young People Awards, to see the lights on. My stomach hit the floor – if my daughter was still up something was wrong. I was right – my sister Sarah had been found dead in her house, suspected suicide. Members in Watford will know Sarah as one of their deliverers, two weeks before she died she was out with me delivering for the PCC elections in Bedfordshire. But Sarah had one of the most painful illnesses known to man or woman – she was bi-polar and schizophrenic. She was also one of the most loving people you would ever meet, a carer all her life, a house always full of children, especially those who she thought needed feeding! However, her illness led to so much misunderstanding and prejudice, and even for someone like me – trying to get her the right care was like banging your head against a brick wall.

Posted in News | 12 Comments

Opinion: A constitutional convention: If not now, when?

As a Jack I owe my life and heritage to Scotland. I totally understood why so many Scots voted yes, but the thought of losing Scotland also filled me with dread. However, whichever side of the debate you sat, I hope we can all agree that the positive outcomes for all of us have been the revitalising of politics in Scotland and the reopening of the question of how as a United Kingdom we should constitute ourselves. We saw graphically the power of having a say in something that really matters. No, the electorate are not apathetic, they are disillusioned and cynical. I don’t think I have ever been out canvassing without at least one comment of “you’re all the same” – to which my reply is generally “if we were all the same why on earth would I be in the Lib Dems?”  We now have a great opportunity to demonstrate that difference, to lead the debate in response to the events of last week.

So, as the call is growing stronger for a Constitutional Convention, I firmly believe this is an issue we as a party should and must take a lead on. Unlock Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society and others including the Labour and Green parties, are  calling for a citizen led convention. In my view such a convention must tackle not only the relationship between our four nations and devolution of power from the centre, but also electoral and Lords reform. This is our bread and butter – our opportunity to kill more than a few birds with one stone! For too long reform has been slow and piecemeal. Despite the clear disaffection of so many, the political elite continue to drag their collective ‘vested interest’ hobnail boots. Remember the man in his 70s who was voting for the first time in Scotland?Despite the clear interest and engagement of the people when they have the chance to vote for something that really matters, the threat that this always poses to those who already have power limits progress.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: Reaching out to young people

I’ve just submitted an article for the ‘Youth 100’ for this year. I’m honoured to have been asked to contribute to the publication, still regarded as a national expert on youth issues. Having spent most of my career working with or on behalf of young people I am constantly exercised about how we as a party connect with them. Post tuition fees – how do we once again become the party of choice for young people?

It’s not easy, but I think the popular brands I’ve been reflecting on this week have some lessons for us. Among other things, …

Posted in News | 8 Comments
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