Blog: Improving the life chances for young people in our county

Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of visiting some Suffolk-based youth organisations that have received grants from my PCC’s crime and disorder reduction fund or support from our new Suffolk Youth Intervention Fund. It is really heart-warming to meet so many enthusiastic young people and great to see how our funds – which is your money – are helping them.
The central purpose of the new youth intervention fund is to provide funding to help support and encourage the personal development of young people countywide, especially those whose opportunities in life have been compromised for a wide variety of reasons such as poor education and neglect. I am particularly pleased with this new initiative because, with the support of the Suffolk Community Foundation, they helped grow my £80,000 contribution of taxpayers’ money with philanthropic donations of £160,000 – an excellent use of public money. I am pleased to say everyone involved is determined to do what we can to improve the life chances for young people in our county.
During these visits I’ve had the very welcome chance to meet and discuss matters of concern to young people and gain a better understanding of what challenges and difficulties they face. It does make me realise how different things are now compared to my teenage years in the dim and distant past. The problems posed by social media, gangs, low levels of aspiration and a lack of good adult role models are all too common. This sad situation can be exacerbated for those brought up in homes blighted by violence, abuse and addiction.
So it was not surprising to learn of the findings contained in a recent national report from the YMCA highlighting the numerous difficulties facing the younger generation. Some headlines include a quarter are afraid of the gang culture and live in fear of crime or feel unsafe – as a result they spend limited time with friends out and about in our towns and cities. More than a third are concerned for their future prospects and lack support, advice and intervention; many say they do not have an adult they can trust. Many feel they are not listened to by older people and therefore often feel despondent, have low aspirations which reinforces their perceptions of isolation and alienation.
All of us, I’m sure, are all too well aware of the difficulties Suffolk faces in dealing with the threats from gangs, county lines and the illegal drugs business which can trap some of our young people in a life of extreme violence, intimidation and crime. Lives are ruined and individuals find it particularly difficult to escape – whole communities can suffer the consequences.
This is unacceptable and very sad, but it need not and must not be this way. Together we need to champion the needs of Suffolk youngsters and much more must be done to deliver a better future especially by those in authority or leadership roles. The status quo is unacceptable and I am convinced by thinking more creatively, listening to others and using existing resources much more effectively there is considerable reason to be optimistic about our collective future
When I speak with girls and boys at many of these charities I am delighted to see at first-hand the positive outcomes being delivered. The range of activities, support and safe locations available does represent a significant step change. From Newmarket to Lowestoft and Felixstowe to Sudbury, eighteen young persons’ charities have been supported with new youth intervention funding.
And yet there is a long journey ahead and we desperately need longer term planning and commitment to rid Suffolk of those pockets of deprivation and isolation.
Suffolk needs to continue building the improvements to our education system and ensure there are sufficient apprenticeships and jobs available so a bright future awaits all our youngsters.
Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to contribute. The funding available has delivered a good start which is why I’m optimistic. We need to carry on so Suffolk remains a great place to live, work, travel and invest. Together we will deliver a better Suffolk
For details of the Suffolk PCC look at our website:

Published in the East Anglian Daily Times   March 2020