Friday, 27 November 2009

Stranger Danger

I recently addressed a meeting of neighbourhood watch coordinators, asking them if they would be prepared to pilot a community-building concept in their area. The idea is simple: reduce and prevent problems with youth by asking neighbourhood watch volunteers to get to know the children, parents and young people in their street. The group liked the idea in principle and some people said they already knew the youngsters on their patch. However for those who didn't, there was a concern: what if the parents had a problem with an adult talking to their children?

It's OK I said, this is much simpler than it sounds. Just smile and say hello as you pass – treat young people with the same courtesy you would an adult. If you get to know children as they grow up, then when you catch them doing something silly and ask them to stop, they'll probably say sorry. If the first time you speak to them is to tell them off, they may not be so polite.

Despite the positive reception at the meeting, I left saddened. Something has gone badly wrong in the UK when decent citizens worry that they will be treated with suspicion if they talk to a youngster.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I've spent the last seven Mondays in a young offenders' institution piloting the a behaviour change programme called 'Silence the Violence' brought in from South Africa. It was an emotional journey for all of us.

At the awards ceremony the boys told the deputy governor and other staff what they had learned. One of them summarised it like this:

A male is someone who can make a baby.
A man is someone who brings that baby up.

From boys who had been badly let down by their fathers this was pure gold.

Friday, 21 August 2009


I'm convinced that the way to create what we want and need in our communities is not by complaining about what governments – local and national – are not providing, but by coming together and creating what we want ourselves.

If the council provides a youth club / sports club / social club / drop in – that's great. But if it doesn't, and that's what the community needs, it just takes two or three committed people to get the ball rolling.

This is not about needing people with qualifications and training, it's about having people with a good heart and lots of enthusiasm. And the good news is that a voluntary group is not subject to changing funding priorities so, as long as finances are kept simple, is in control of its own destiny.

When people take charge of their own destiny they grow. It may take time and seem like hard work at times, but most volunteers get as much out as they put in, by seeing the difference they make to their community. When the feel good factor wears off it's time to hand the baton on to others, and if you make volunteering part of the culture of the organisation, there will always be someone else to take over.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Creating Safer Communities for All           Spring 2009 

Our Aim is for Leighton Buzzard to be a place where:
there is a sense of community that allows everyone to feel safe
young people feel recognised, valued, respected and catered for
adults feel respected by young people

The new youth club at Pages Park opened on 28th January. It is in the pavilion on Wednesdays from 6.30 to 8.30 pm. Huge thanks to parents Toni Smith and Julie Wilks and teachers Phil Chaffey and Kieran Dell for making this happen, and to the police and councillors for helping with the funding. As the nights get lighter and the children can use the courts behind the pavilion for games we could do with some more volunteers, so if you would like to help out on an occasional or regular basis contact Toni on 07908-173073.
We now have a template for setting up a club, so if you would like to see a youth club in your neighbourhood we’d be pleased to tell you how it’s done!

Bedfordshire Youth Service has refurbished the youth centre on Vandyke Road. The youth club at Leighton Buzzard Youth Centre is for Year 8 and above on Thursday evenings from 7.00 – 10.00 pm.
The centre also offers sessions in Manga art (Japanese cartoons), dodge ball and street dance, and provides meeting space for young parents, Connexions, the Autism Bedfordshire youth club and the Youth Cabinet. More activities are planned for later in the year.

It’s good to have examples of how the safer community philosophy works - here’s a story from one of our members:
“My father-in-law worked for Wimpey up at the Pages Priory development. There was a group of young lads who were knocking about the site, causing a few minor problems. Instead of confronting them and being negative, he spoke with them and realised they just had nothing to do and were bored. He managed to liaise with the management at Wimpey and negotiated a small fund to pay for a football goal. As a result the boys were as good as gold and didn’t cause any more trouble.”

Over 200 people have attended talks for parents put on by the extended schools service. These have been about boys, teenagers and raising confident children (see next page for future dates). It’s been lovely to have grandparents in the audience, as their experience can bring a different perspective to bringing up children. In fact the older generation is vital to the project of creating a safer community for everyone in our town. Not only do older people have the wisdom and experience that only comes with age, but they are also likely to spend more time in the community and live at a slower, saner pace. This means they have time to get to know the youngsters on their street, pass the time of day with them as they grow up, pass on knowledge and skills, and give them a sense of community. When children feel they are part of a community and are treated as though they matter, they develop a sense of loyalty and responsibility to that community that benefits us all.


Confident Children with Lucinda Neall on helping children develop into caring, capable and confident people will be held at the following schools starting at 7.00 pm:

Wednesday, 20th May at Leighton Middle School
Wednesday, 3rd June at Heathwood Lower School
Wednesday, 17th June at Brooklands Middle School
Monday, 29th June at Stanbridge Lower School

GoCycle are putting on a series of Bikeability sessions: 01525 635 111

Contact:    Lucinda Neall     01525-220846 

Saturday, 28 February 2009

A Good Childhood

This month the Children's Society published its report on childhood in the UK, A Good Childhood – Searching for Values in a Competitive Age.  Noting that the UK comes out poorly in studies of child welfare compared to other developed countries (except the United States), it looks for the causes and solutions to the problem. It concludes that in recent decades family and community values have weakened and the void has been filled with excessive individualism, with everyone being encouraged to go for their own happiness and success, without thought for those around them. This pursuit of 'happiness' has led to a decline in trust in society, a reduced sense of community, and increases in conflict and separation in families. 

The report does not shy away from talking about the values we need. This is its concluding paragraph: 
So it is possible to construct a modern society in which there are higher levels of child well-being than in Britain. The key is an ethic in which we care more for each other. As the psychological evidence shows, this yields a double benefit – other people treat us better and we feel better from helping them. It is a world like this, built on the law of love, that we should create with our children.

The Law of Love –  I like that.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

An uplifting day

It started with a meeting with two mums who decided last spring that they wanted to set up a youth club – everything is in place for it to open next week. Later I watched Barack Obama's inauguration on TV.

This evening I was invited to a meeting of Cheddington Youth Council – a group of teenagers who want to make their village a better place to live. The two main things on their agenda were how to raise money for a skate park and how to get mutual respect between the generations. 

Can individuals make a difference? Yes we can!