I’m very pleased to announce that the Nick Maughan Foundation has made a contribution to the Berkshire Youth Trust, a charitable organisation delivering much needed youth support services.
The Trust’s aim is to help young people make successful transitions to adulthood, by supporting them to avoid the problems which plague the development of too many young people today – such as knife crime, drug abuse, lack of access to high quality education and skills development. Mental health issues are often linked to these problems, complicating an already difficult landscape for millions of Britain’s young people.
This is an issue presently at the top of government’s agenda, with the Prime Minister having recently announced that he will be taking personal charge of a new cabinet committee to tackle surging levels of knife crime and violence, with a particular focus on “county lines” gangs that are abusing and exploiting children.
Out of school youth clubs can provide vital opportunities for young people’s development, especially for the underprivileged. In recent years however their resources have been severely depleted. Over £500 million has been cut from the national youth work budget since 2011, with a marked shift away from a universal offer, now largely left to sports clubs and faith organisations.
These cuts have seen a marked shift from prevention towards support for those already in crisis or at very high risk and increasing numbers of young people are not supported until their needs reach crisis point.
Crucially, the Berkshire Youth Trust is focused on prevention – providing safe havens to cater for young people who are not yet in crisis but are likely to miss out because they face other barriers to opportunities, such as mental health challenges, caring responsibilities or low self-esteem.
The Nick Maughan Foundation’s donation will contribute to the launch of the Waterside Centre in Newbury, the Berkshire Youth Trust’s first state of the art ‘Inspired Facility’. The refurbished community and youth centre will provide a range of activities, including rock climbing, dancing, canoeing, and vocational training.
Despite its reputation for affluence, around 15% per cent of the 3,000 young people in West Berkshire are currently living in poverty, and the district has one of the widest attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged young people in the country.
I was particularly taken by the Trust’s ambition to use the Waterside Centre as a blueprint for Inspired Facilities to be launched further afield. These will act as a network alongside other youth centres in their areas through which to encourage and support shared learning and lead in the fostering of strong, reliable communities for young people across the country.
We’re looking to working with the Berkshire Youth Trust to help tackle one of our country’s most pressing problems.