I would like to introduce you to our fantastically impassioned guest poster today; Neil Thornely who is working tirelessly in a effort for the United Kingdom to recognise a National Children’s Day.
As some of you may know, today is International Youth Day. It comes as a bitter coincidence that on this day in 2011, Britain’s youth is grabbing headlines for causing carnage on the streets of London, Manchester, Liverpool and many other UK cities.
There is no excuse for this violence. There is never an excuse for expressing frustration or anger in a way which causes damage to public property or people’s livelihoods. But beneath the surface media coverage of youths raiding sportswear shops and tearing out street furniture there is a dialogue, a message – this behaviour is a symptom of a much larger problem within our society. Sane people do not riot for days on end when they are content with their lives.
Here we are seeing an entire generation of impoverished youngsters reacting in the only way they know will garner the attention they want. Let’s not romanticise them and elevate them to martyrdom, what they are doing is criminal and wrong, but here is the surest indicator that something needs to be done.
Anybody who watched the recent BBC documentary ‘Poor Kids’ (watch our interview with the creators TrueVision TV here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm352_lTi2A) will have seen that aspirational poverty doesn’t only affect youth but also exhibits itself in much younger age groups. In the documentary we see the adorable Courteney (eight) and her friend Holly comparing their respective futures (Click here to view the clip http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00hfbk4).
There is a clear problem here, and a huge oversight from our leaders to address the matter of engendering ambition and self-belief into our children. We are seeing many children’s services being axed, funding for charities in decline and increasing disenfranchisement of young people from the government.
Surely we need a system of co-design, where young people are included in shaping their own world (eg. Service design, education etc.) to empower them and give ownership. Understanding all the factors that have led to certain behaviours allows us to change systems, processes and ultimately beliefs that young people have about the role they play in the world.
We need decisive action from communities, charities and parents to educate children that they can do well, that they are talented and that the responsibility of shaping their future lies with them. Today is International Youth Day, an awareness day designated by the UN that we accept a human rights document. The UK currently doesn’t recognise this or the much older Universal Children’s Day, which is an observance that we acknowledge the 1959 UN Declaration of the Rights of a Child.
We are currently working on behalf of Sheffield not-for-profit Youth Can Achieve to have Children’s Day recognised in the UK. It is currently celebrated by over 60 countries around the world, and would be an opportunity for charities, schools, community groups – indeed anyone, to celebrate the day in their own way and take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the guardians of tomorrow. The day would be celebrated on November 20th, in line with the UN’s current Univeral Children’s Day.
I would also like to thank Natasha for giving me the opportunity to post on her wonderful blog!
Thanks Neil for a thoughtful and passionate post. I would urge you sign the petition in support of a National Children’s Day so we can recognise the value and contribution that our children make not only to our future, but also to our present.