Blog: Helping youngsters make the best choices in life

The signs are encouraging that the impact of this ghastly pandemic is easing and so our thoughts are turning more and more to how Suffolk recovers as quickly as possible from this dreadful time. The daily statistics reported in the media have made very grim reading and there have many heart-breaking situations experienced by large numbers of people across our county.
As always, society must keep looking forwards and we must be confident better times do lie ahead and as Her Majesty The Queen recently said, “We will meet again”. In the meantime it is vital we remain cautious and continue to follow government advice on social distancing and washing our hands. We must ensure there is no return of the disease or second spike in the infection level.
We know there is a very strong correlation between high levels of deprivation and lack of social-mobility with raised levels of crime, addiction, abuse and anti-social behaviour. Recent unemployment figures have, sadly and not surprisingly, taken a sharp turn for the worse. According to the Office for National Statistics young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have been particularly badly affected by the economic downturn. The data shows their rate of unemployment doubled between March and May. Prince Charles has also shared his concerns and has pledged to do whatever he can through the Prince’s Trust to help young people in difficulty.
As Suffolk’s PCC I share Prince Charles’ concerns and our office stands ready to assist via our grant and commissioning work. I believe our grant programme makes a real difference and has helped many individuals, especially young people. Last year we launched the highly successful Suffolk Youth Intervention Fund in conjunction with the Suffolk Community Foundation, which is supporting thirteen different organisations county-wide helping youngsters make the best choices in life and provide the appropriate support and advice as they develop their careers. I’m sure the programme helps many to leading happier and more fulfilling lives, by raising their confidence levels and aspirations as well as their self-esteem.
Everyone, I believe, has potential and as Disraeli said many years ago, “The secret of success in life is to be ready when the opportunity comes”. So we must try and ensure our young people are ready – we can help by working together as individuals and across all sectors of the economy to create opportunities for the younger generations.
There are thousands of excellent, creative and wonderful young people in Suffolk and I recently attended a Zoom meeting with members of our youth parliament. From our discussions, I know they too share concerns about their future prospects and those of us in leadership positions have a moral obligation to help.
The reduction of publicly-funded youth facilities and activities probably went too far. This was one of the reasons for developing our Youth Intervention Fund and I know the very generous donations from so many individuals to the fund amply demonstrates there is deep concern for the plight of young people in Suffolk. This powerful combination of goodwill and compassion is of great benefit to many people in difficulty so now is the time to build on that momentum.
Our Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s Fund is open once again for applications (details on our website so please take a look if you have a proposal to put forward for funding. We really want to help.
Lastly I know it is a very challenging and difficult time but we can all help by following the Stick With It Suffolk advice. Avoiding a return of the strict lockdown helps all of us and in particular our young people, so please stick with it! In addition, do support our local shops and businesses – the extra demand might well help employ more young people and that benefits the whole county, so let’s do it!

Published in the East Anglian Daily Times  June 2020