Regulating young people’s activities

I am of a generation that regularly partook in outdoor activities in my childhood, unsupervised, which these days is something we don’t see too much of and would likely be disapproved of if repeated today. I spent many hours, often the best part of many days on end, playing in the nearby park and anywhere else we could access, away from the watchful eye adults, and this was the case long before I became a teenager. While sometimes things did go wrong and there were rare cases of children being abused, even cautious parents (and I would place my own in that category) thought nothing of it. While it is true that these days some children do stuff unsupervised it is a lot less so because of the “fear factor” than in “my day”.

The other thing that I recall from my long ago youthful past is there were lots of activities by way of clubs and suchlike, often linked to the church, and these were almost all run by volunteers, and often our parents did not have to pay anything, and they were most appreciative. In terms of regulations, I don’t recall there were any to speak off and whoever ran those clubs did their thing without objections being raised and the rule of thumb that they operated by was plain common sense. While I no longer run youth activities, I have done my fair share of doing so in the past, as well as being a beneficiary in the even further past. Sadly, I have too often heard in recent years of clubs closing through lack of willing helpers and a curtailing of activities because of regulations that need to be followed, although understandably there are safeguarding concerns. While the culture has changed to more accommodate electronic and computer gadgetry etc., there has been a lessening interest in clubs like scouts and boys brigade and what they can do. I doubt whether many of the more bureaucratic changes are for the better.

The thought flashed through my mind that things could get worse when I read an article titled: “Ofsted plans ‘catastrophic’ for voluntary sector, says MP” which begins: “Conservative MP Fiona Bruce is urging people to respond to the Government consultation. The government’s extremism strategy is dangerously ineffective. Plans for Ofsted to regulate out-of-school settings could burden churches, discourage volunteers and cause unnecessary distress to children, a Conservative MP has warned. Writing on the Christian Today website, MP Fiona Bruce urged people to respond to a consultation on proposals to introduce a nationwide registration scheme for any out-of-school setting providing instruction to under 19-year-olds for more than six hours in any week. She warned that the plans could result in “officials sitting in to ensure Mums and Tots aren’t being radicalised by singing Bible songs”.

I have already offered my thoughts in the past concerning the government’s anti-extremist plans and expressed a view their ideas to curb young people being radicalized could be likened to a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and by trying to monitor what takes place is in line with their British values ideas could amount to good people being penalized while not preventing what they have set out to do in the first place. As far as this report is concerned one of the issues is that religious freedom may be prevented for fear of the repercussions, and here I concur even though understanding the need to stop indoctrination. Yet one important aspect why many volunteer in the first place does involve religion. By creating more bureaucracy it could further dissuade people taking up voluntary activities, particularly in a church context (which many are) out of fear of repercussions and having to do stuff not directly to do with the reason they want to get involved in the first place.

Often when I blog, I do so because there is a matter that I care about that is under threat, which in this case involving Christians offering services that might benefit young people, without expectation of reimbursement, who might feel with the changes proposed enough is enough and decided not do so. Often, I don’t have the definitive answers beyond simply putting aside ones feelings and going with the flow, but in this case it is also about bringing in the appropriate controls to address concerns such as the need to stop extremism and to do so in an appropriate manner. I realize I am biased here but even though many of the clubs I had involvement with in the past had some Christian ethos, I see that as mainly a positive thing. I don’t anticipate the sort of changes I yearn might happen happening soon but at least I can say it as I see it in the hope changes will come and that people who want to pass on something to others can do so without undue hindrance. I also would want to honour and stand with those who do serve our community, in this case young people, and do so without ostentation or expecting a reward.

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