Will David Cameron’s National Citizen Service deliver results for poor disaffected ” hard to reach ” youth?

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David Cameron with some National Citizen Service students on a Teach First partnership. Pic Credit: Teach First

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One of David Cameron’s  legacies from his  ” Big Society ” initiative is the creation of a National Citizen Service for 15 to 17 year olds where they could go to summer camps.take part in adventurous sports like rock climbing and kayaking  and undertake community work and local projects for four weeks.

He bequeathed Theresa May with a bill setting up a national trust with a Royal Charter so it could be implemented nationwide. So enamoured was David Cameron with the idea  he has agreed to be chair of the patrons of the new trust.

But since Theresa May took office it has suffered two body blows. She has limited the money and dropped a commitment to a statutory requirement for schools and colleges to publicise it. None of this has had much publicity because of Trump and Brexit.

As a result it will have less money and less publicity.

Her action coincided with a damning National Audit Office report which questioned its ability to deliver and control the money it has already received.

The NAO warned : “The Trust has spent little time understanding costs and where savings could be made. The Trust has four strategic objectives: growth; quality; cost and sustainability. Its business plan includes a number of cost control initiatives at the early stages of implementation. “

“Based on a full unit cost, NCS risks being financially unsustainable in the future. Our analysis shows that in 2016, the estimated full unit cost exceeded the expected unit cost by 19%

“On this basis, it will cost government £560 million to provide 300,000 places in 2019-20, 32% more than the £424 million funding currently allocated. The unit cost will need to fall 29% from £1,863 in 2016 to £1,314 in 2019 to provide these places within the available spending envelope. “

Worse the report found that the trust had little ability to control costs.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO added: “NCS is now at a critical stage…. The OCS (Office for Civil Society) and the Trust have shown that NCS can attract large numbers of participants, and participation has a positive effect on young people. These are no small achievements, but it remains unclear whether these effects are enduring and whether NCS can grow to become ‘a rite of passage’ available to all 16- to 17-year-olds.The OCS and the Trust now need to think radically about the aspects of the current programme that work and how best to achieve NCS’s aims at a more affordable cost to the taxpayer.”

The question is what is the NCS for? Will it just be another project high jacked by pushy parents who want their sons and daughters to have an attractive CV when they apply for a university place? Or will it serve as a genuine catalyst to give ” hard to reach ” young people an idea of community involvement.

One  working class area  where it is working is Barnsley.

The local MP,Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, is strongly behind it  and has promoted the scheme in his constituency.

“It obviously needs to be value for money but it is vitally important it gets to “ hard to reach “ kids as it can change lives.

“People sometimes think I am keen to promote it because of my army background and want to introduce it as a return to conscription. This is not the case – it is more than one needs the scheme to be put on a national basis.”

He says the success in Barnsley is helped by projects run by the town’s football club and also a recent exchange with the London borough of Newham which helped kids broaden their horizons.

At the moment the jury is out. Will it expand to benefit the working classes or just be another middle class ” rite of passage”. Who will win out- Barnsley or Eton?

I have also written about this for Tribune magazine.

Child Sex Abuse Justice: Premier League or Eton Mess?

Adfam Johnson pic credit BBC

Sunderland player Adam Johnson; Pic Credit: BBC

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Andrew ” Picard ” using his father’s surname in an US swimming competition. Picture by I & M Galleries. Photographer: Nicole Harnishfeger

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Two very high profile cases  involving child sexual abuse have recently hit the headlines. One involved the Premier League footballer Adam Johnson, capped 12 times for England. The other involved Andrew Picard ( who used his mother’s name rather than his father’s surname), an Old Etonian from a wealthy , well connected family.

Adam Johnson was given a six year prison sentence for grooming  and sexually assaulting a 15 year old girl, a Sunderland fan besotted with him.

As the BBC reported Judge Jonathan Rose told him he had abused a position of trust and caused his victim “severe psychological harm”. He told Johnson, 28, he had engaged in sexual activity with her knowing she was under 16. Police  also found extreme pornography involving animals on Johnson’s laptop.

Andrew Picard, 18, was spared jail and given a 10 month sentence suspended for 18 months after the police found  over 1155 indecent  children images on his computer in his Eton College dormitory. Like Johnson some of the images involved animals. The judge described some of the videos – which included abuse of babies and toddlers – as “so appalling, frankly I can’t bring myself to talk about it.”

One of his videos showed a girl as young as three being raped, while others showed young children being forced to have sex with dogs. He also shared these videos and images on a chat room where he was unmasked by undercover police.

Now I am not going to defend Adam Johnson or  challenge the sentence he received. He is a Premier League football player who used his  position in society  to take advantage of an under age girl who obviously had a crush on him, and  he took an unhealthy interest in  extreme sex.

But I do think there is an element of rough justice when you compare the sentence handed out to him and the one given to Andrew Picard.  Adam Johnson is a Northern  working  class lad educated at Easington Community College who suddenly became rich through his footballing skills.

Andrew Picard is  the son of a very wealthy American lawyer living in Westminster and has yet to prove himself in any career. Johnson is splashed all over the tabloids, Picard was initially covered by  the tabloids  but already  reports about his case have been taken down by one newspaper and he is starting to  disappear off the internet.

The Mirror reported in a now withdrawn article: ” Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, QC referred to her client’s remorse and pointed to the good work he had been doing with doctors in the past year, undergoing constant treatment with numerous doctors and psychiatrists.

“This is a young and very able man who has hopes for the future,” she added.

“He was able to have this opportunity [to seek help] and this was something Andrew sought for himself, by himself.”

Sparing Picard jail, Judge Ross said a term of custody would undo the good work he had done in the past year undergoing extensive counselling.

He said: “This defendant Andrew Picard was a privileged young man. His family are clearly wealthy enough to send him to school in Eton.

“Quite how you found your way into this unpleasant world Mr Picard, the world of chat rooms and exchanging this material, is not clear to me.”

Now there could be some  mitigating circumstances.which are highlighted by Matthew Scott’s barrister blog.  He points out that but for the delay in bringing the case to court Andrew committed the offences at the age of 17 when he would have been granted anonymity and the press could only say he was a public schoolboy. As it is his father was spared embarrassment by him being charged in his mother’s name – even though this failed when the press found  his surname. I am curious that the Crown Prosecution Service allowed him to be charged under a different name.

More interestingly he points out that the judge imposed an order that could still land him in prison. As he writes : ” Those who think the judge was going soft on Mr Picard need to ask themselves why, if that was the case, did he impose a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (breach of which carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years)? The law did not require him to impose it, he chose to do so. ”

But my view is that this sentencing reflects the present divide in society. The full force of the law comes down on a working class footballer but the law is generous to the crimes of an Old Etonian. I only hope the psychiatrists,doctors and counsellors treating Andrew Picard can get him to change his ways.He is lucky his family can afford them, unlike many child sex victims.

 

 

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Should you, the taxpayer subsidise premier league rugby on top of commercial sponsors?

 Aviva Rugby premiership clubs - in need of taxpayer subsidy?  Image credit: BBC

Aviva Rugby premiership clubs – in need of taxpayer subsidy?
Image credit: BBC

This weekend has seen the crowning moment of the rugby season with the Six Nation’s contest. Millions of people throughout the UK, Ireland, Italy and France have followed the game.

Tens of millions of pounds rolls in from punters, sponsors every year to finance the game and promote the sport. So perhaps you might be rather surprised to learn  in this age of austerity and government spending cuts that this year for the first time taxpayers have started to fund the top end of the game to the tune of £600,000 over the next two years.

The funding body is the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Details are in this press release. It sounds very laudable.-the money is going to fund more participation by women and ethnic minorities.and disabled in the sport. It should also improve disabled access to the game.

They will include plans to “recruit 480 female teachers and volunteers and 156 schools to the Sports Inclusion Programme, run 156 five week rugby training programmes for girls and 104 five week sessions for children from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

However one might well ask in an age when public spending cuts are de reguer  and the disabled, in particular, have suffered huge cuts from the “bedroom tax ” to the impending demise of the disability living fund, why rugby premier league should get new funding from the taxpayer. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has seen its budget slashed to pieces as well.

If you go to the Premiership Rugby site you will find it is not short of sponsorship.. As well as Aviva insurance funding the Premier League BT Sports have just signed a lucrative  sponsorship deal, And it doesn’t stop there, other funding comes Land Rover, Guinness, Green Flag and premium Thai lager, Singha, to name a few.

Also if you check Premier League Rugby’s  latest accounts for  2013- 2014 you will find they distributed over £41m to the 12 top clubs..It made a gross profit of over £4m before other expenses. And its top staff don’t seem to be badly paid. It employs just 23 people  but they share £1.975m in wages between them  plus another nearly £300,000 in pension and national insurance contributions.

When I prepared an article for Tribune  a spokesman for Premiership Rugby told me that they weren’t a rich organisation and only four out of the 12 top Premier League clubs were in the black and the rest desperately needed the money. Certainly compared with Premier League football they are not rich but my nephews and my rugby mad relations tell me that at big games you don’t find many sponsorship tables empty. Perhaps then Gloucester, Saracens and London Welsh are in deep trouble but it doesn’t look like to me ( the one Gloucester game I went to seemed pretty full).

My point is that  while I applaud the aims of this extra cash – i don’t really see why the taxpayer should foot the bill. It should not be difficult  to get another sponsor to do it.

And it is about to get worse . Another £1.3m of taxpayer’s cash is about to go from the EHRC to the poverty stricken Premier League football and the England and Wales Cricket Board. All this is approved by the board of the EHRC but even Lord Holmes, the disability commissioner seems to have some doubts as shown in this  blog.