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Nowhere to go ( nothing to do.

Byline: By Denise Robertson

On Any Questions this week they discussed the so-called Foetal Asbos, Tony Blair's suggestion that problem children can be treated before birth.

No lover of Tony, I have to defend him against the allegation that this is a daft idea and he's gone off his rocker. Of course, we can make efforts to provide a good environment for a child, one that is conducive to that child growing up to be a happy, productive citizen.

But what makes me despair, and why I think Mr Blair's statement is well meant but meaningless, is that all we ever get is words. We've been getting them from successive governments since the war, and all the time things have been getting worse and young people more adrift from society.

Where are the youth clubs, playing fields, adventure trips, Saturday cinema which once provided an outlet for the young ( struggling to keep afloat if they exist at all. We have wonderful leisure centres but they don't come cheap. They're for kids with money.

So are the new haunts of youth, shopping malls.

As soon as they're old enough the pub becomes, for some teenagers, the one place where they can congregate. Until then there is only the street corner. Family life now centres more around the telly than the dining table and the family life depicted on that television is, more often than not, held up as a joke.

Both schools and parents are bedeviled by officialdom breathing down their neck. Teachers, who once organised so many out of school activities, are cheesed off and wary of finding themselves in breach of yet another regulation.

Lay helpers have to wade through a minefield of registration and checks if they want to act as helpers. Adding another layer of officialdom by "nationalising" children will get us nowhere. And it's useless to blame it all on single mothers. They certainly play their part in the mess, but I get as many letters from married parents with out of control children as I do from single mums.

"The devil finds work for idle hands to do," is a wise adage.

As long as young people have nowhere to go and nothing useful to do unless they have money and co-operative parents, we will have trouble. And all the Asbos in the world won't stop it.

* Denise Robertson cannot enter into any personal correspondence.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 5, 2006
Words:400
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