Abandoned All Ye Who Cannot Enter Here

Miftaul Islam points to the youth problem which government cuts have created.

A minute’s walk from Whitechapel tube station and there they are – a row of hoodies, bundled up against the wind and cold, sitting on a wall with nothing to do and nowhere in the world to go to.

Time was when there was always the youth club. Perhaps it would have seemed beneath them to go there – too much ping pong, orange squash and leaflets on ‘family planning’ and STDs. But at least it was there – a safe haven when they needed it.

Not anymore. Since 2103 the total spend on youth services in England has fallen by 36 per cent. In Tower Hamlets alone, youth funding has been cut by £9.4 million.

The effects of these cuts are confirmed by the hooded youths themselves. ‘There isn’t much we can do, you see,’ said one, who didn’t want to be named. ‘Our local youth clubs are all shut.’ Another added: ‘Even when they’re open, it’s for a couple of hours after school on weekdays only.’

Wapping Youth Centre, for example, is forced to remain closed at weekends.

Locked shut from the inside
Locked shut from the inside

Youth workers who remain in post are resolved to hang on, determined to make the most of extremely limited resources. At Mile End Community Project, Nurull Islam insisted that ‘the role of spaces for young people is very important. These are spaces that allow young people to develop themselves, their skills and also to just have fun in a productive safe space. If these spaces cease to exist then they have no choice but to “hang out” on the streets.’

Whoever comes into power after the general election on 7 May, something must be done about the youth of today – and how much has been taken away from them.