Merthyr Youth

Feb 052013
 

Yesterday I noticed a story on the BBC West Anglia website about a ‘summit’ to tackle youth unemployment. Not a ‘meeting’ or a ‘conference’, but a summit, no less; the sort of thing that kept us on the edge of our seats during the Cold War. Serious stuff, eh! This particular summit brought together in Newport First Minister Carwyn Jones and Secretary of State David Jones, along with various other loafers with nothing better to do. I quickly realised that this was another case of the clueless getting together for reassurance that political ‘opponents’ were equally devoid of ideas, and all hoping that this gathering might be misinterpreted by an incompetent media as ‘doing something’. The news moved me to Tweet.

Later in the day, on the BBC WA 6:30 news there was a lengthy report from Merthyr (regrettably this seems to be no longer available on BBC iPlayer), about an organisation called Merthyr Youth (MY), a kind of self-regulating youth club for kids from the age of eleven. My doubts about Merthyr Youth began with this poster (left ) on the wall, making me think, ‘Surely kids of 14 (and older) are too young to work. And aren’t they supposed to be getting advice on employment in school and college?’ The more I saw of MY, and its Deputy Director, Jack Law, the more I thought to myself, ‘this looks like yet more Third Sector duplication’ (of work being done by other agencies). A thought strengthened by young Mr Law himself. For although this was in Merthyr, his accent did not suggest Gurnos or Dowlais, or anywhere nearby. All that was missing from the growing impression of this being another example of a problem I commented on very recently was the usual Third Sector funding. So I did a little Googling on Merthyr Youth, and Jack Law. I was not disappointed.

Very quickly I learnt that Merthyr Youth was given £49,300 in December by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to make six short films about the town’s ‘diversity’. (Yet more ‘Everybody but the Welsh’ bollocks?) Jennifer Stewart, head of HLF Wales was quoted as saying, “We are delighted to support this project which will enable young people to research the history of Merthyr Tydfil’s migration and by so . . . ” Hang on! “Migration”! Is she saying Merthyr came from somewhere else? The report also made a number of mentions of “drama” and “musical theatre”. Merthyr Youth also received £300 from the Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund “to record an album of songs”! It therefore seems reasonable to assume that other grants have been applied for and, possibly, gained. Though the Merthyr Youth website makes no mention of any funding received.

It will come as no surprise to regular readers, and others knowledgeable on the machinations of the Third Sector, that much of the HLF money will be used to pay a Project Manager. According to the MY website the successful applicant started in the job on December 1st, but the website neglects to name him or her. A rather worrying omission seeing as we are dealing now with grant funding. Another thing, I couldn’t help but notice that the whole application process was rather, well . . . rushed. Deadline for applications on November 16th, interviews November 20th, start job on December 1st.

Makes me wonder how well it was advertised, and for how long. Another curiosity is that there is no mention at all of the post of Project Manager, let alone a name, in the Wales Online piece (linked to above) of December 13th, even though this piece dealt exclusively with the project twelve days after the Project Manager was due to start. Was a Project Manager appointed? If so, who is it? If not, why not?

I made mention above of MY’s emphasis on the performing arts. Which should be no surprise seeing as young Jack is a bit of a thespian himself, being director of the Broken Leg Theatre Company. Now I have no way of knowing what the connection is – if any – between Merthyr Youth and the theatre company, certainly there is no mention of the company on the MY website. So it may be an entirely separate venture to Merthyr Youth. If so, and just in case, I have a word of fatherly advice for Jack. In my studies of the Third Sector I have come across a number of cases in which grants have been awarded to persons running charities or the like who simultaneously run their own companies operating in the same, or a closely associated, sphere. This often leads to, um, ‘confusion’, with funding and equipment given to the charity being used by the private company.

So good luck to Jack, I say. He’s obviously found his niche, and at an early age he’s already learning his way to the troughs. This could be the start of a long career in the Third Sector . . . using money that could be better spent elsewhere duplicating work that others are – or should be – doing. But hey! even though Jack is a mere minnow in a sea of sharks it all helps funders pretend they’re disbursing money ‘imaginatively’; it gives photo opportunities to politicos and other pond life; and it helps the ‘Welsh’ media fill pages and air time. Everybody’s a winner . . .

. . . Until that is you give a bit more thought to those kids in Merthyr. Remember them? That’s what it’s all supposed to be about – the blight of youth unemployment. How many of them do you think are going to get a worthwhile job out of this circus? I guarantee that, as with so much of the Third Sector in Wales, everyone will get a slice of the cake, while those the project is supposed to be helping will be lucky to see the crumbs.

All because of this stinking colonial system that guarantees Welsh poverty; poverty that is then celebrated and perpetuated by our local politicians for their own political advantage. Think about that! Both the London government and the Cardiff government share the goal of keeping Wales poor. Resulting in the grotesquery of ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘fighting for Wales’ by blaming others, ‘sending messages to London’, and funding its charlatan cronies in the Third Sector, rather than actually doing anything to build a Welsh economy.