By Tafazal Mohammad
The past decade has seen a marked change in legislation for all those agencies concerned with the welfare of young people. The tragic death of Victoria Climbié on the 25th of February 2000, described as an entirely preventable tragedy at least twelve times by Lord Laming, was a particular turning point. Some of the highlighted factors contributing towards the ‘opportunities missed’ were: low standards of professional practice; accountability at various levels; lack of inter and intra-agency information sharing; and poor managerial support for front line workers. As a policy response, the Labour government published a Green Paper ‘Every Child Matters’ (ECM) in September 2003 for consultation, which subsequently prompted an unprecedented debate about the services for children, young people and families. The Government then published ECM; Next Steps and passed the Children Act 2004 providing the ‘backbone’ for reform focusing on needs and ECM; Change for Children was published in November 2004.
More than just a focus on child protection, ECM’s reformist approach is to bring about changes at all levels for children’s services, ensuring that children and young people achieve five outcomes: Being Healthy, Staying Safe, Enjoying and Achieving, Making a Positive Contribution and Achieving Economic Well-being.
Whilst the focus of ECM is from birth to age 19, Youth Matters; Next Steps (2006), is the policy document that applies the ECM principles, particularly aimed at improving outcomes for ‘youth’ (13-19 year olds), proposing to give them “somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to”.
Ruth Kelly, in her forward of the policy document (Youth Matters 2006), states on the aims of ‘Youth Matters’: ‘We are set on delivering a radical reshaping of universal services for teenagers – with targeted support for those who need it most’ and ‘…we want young people to be actively involved in their communities, influencing decision-making and democratic processes, and leading action to change communities for the better.’ ‘…I want every teenager to flourish and succeed – and receive services and support tailored to their needs. Youth Matters builds on the progress we have made in recent years but we have to step up a gear. I believe that the plan in this document will do that but they require imagination and leadership, and a shared vision, from everyone working with young people.’
Is there enough targeted support for young Muslims to reverse the sense of alienation and discrimination felt or should they continue to be seen through the lens of the ‘Prevent’ agenda? With the discourse of young Muslims being apparently drawn into violent extremism gaining momentum, we are in danger of polarising one of the largest young ethnic minority communities within mainland UK further by seeing them as inherently deviant first and then young.
In the coming decade several key questions need to be addressed. How can we ensure that young Muslims are actively involved in decision-making processes that would shape future provision? What kind of leadership should we be looking for in attempting to address the mundane issues that Muslim youth face?
What are some of the key processes needed and what important discussions do we need to be having with government and within our communities to ensure that every Muslim child does matter?
Should young Muslims not have the right to equal access and have somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to?
Does every Muslim child matter?
Tafazal Mohammad has over a decade of experience in the youth and community work field. He is Managing Director of Muslim Youth Skills [MYS]. MYS is an organisation that provides training and consultancy to equip individuals and organisations who work with young people and community groups to be competent and confident about their work.
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