Cuts have made ‘McDonald’s the new center for young people’, says youth worker

A community champion has issued a new call for more spaces for young people to stop a spike in violence.

Nathaniel James, 34, from Chelmsley Wood, has been working as a youth educator for over a decade.

In his day job he visits schools as a trainer of youngsters in stop and search for the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

READ MORE: Closings of West Midlands police stations have been called ‘utterly shameful’ in a heated debate in the House of Commons

But the multi-hatted man is also a music mentor and is currently working with an organization called Step Together – a national pilot scheme funded by the Home Office.

It seeks to connect education bosses, police and community partners in a collaborative project to increase safety and reduce violent crime against young people.

As part of his job, he reviews designated school routes at the start and end of the school day.

Now Nathaniel has launched a campaign for more spaces such as the youth clubs that existed when he was a child.

He explained how the “conservative cuts” had led to a lack of facilities for young people.

Analysis from the YMCA youth charity has revealed youth services have been hit by a 70% funding cut in less than a decade. This is despite youth services considered by those working in the sector to be essential in the fight against knife crime.

“We need to start making noise about this,” Nathaniel said. “The stats are probably even worse now. Young people have no place to go.”

He added that instead of designated spaces where young people can congregate, with trained staff to help with their problems, young people are instead congregating in places like McDonald’s where no support is available.

In October 2020, Nathaniel told us he had been arrested 300 times by police despite having no criminal record. He thinks most of his experiences are due to him being chosen because of his race.

Now, Nathaniel said he spends his time talking to local community leaders about spaces where workshops can be held to get children off the streets.

In his day job, he visits schools as a trainer of young people on leave and researches

“It’s about creating more opportunities for children to participate,” he added.

Most recently he was responsible for putting in place a dispersal order in Chelmsley Wood town centre.

It came after cops stepped up patrols on the Solihull estate due to an increase in the number of youngsters causing a nuisance.

Nathaniel explained how he was working in the area when he discovered trouble could soon arise. He quickly told his supervisor to ensure a response.

“We had to defuse the situation as quickly as possible,” he explained.

He said it is children between the ages of 13 and 16 who pose a risk to others and to themselves.

“At first it was 16, now it goes to 13 and 12,” he continued.

“They have no one to talk to.”

Worse still, Nathaniel said, the older children were actively encouraging the younger ones to “pick up a knife and deal with it.”

“People they look up to don’t understand conflict management,” he added.

“If we have youth clubs, we can liaise with schools and [ensure] backup.”

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