“I actually desperately wish that central government had a better understanding of the need for, at a local level, for there to be better provisions for young people out of school, and the importance of helping young people as they leave school to get into good training and then onto employment,” said Judy Smith, trustee for Greenwich Action for Voluntary Service, at the Stephen Lawrence: 20 Years On workshop held recently in Eltham. Smith expressed a theme that was common throughout, namely while significant strides have been made in Britain since the death of Stephen Lawrence, more needs to be done to improve opportunities for young people across the board.
Smith was speaking at a workshop on the first day of the event, which took place over two consecutive days. Joining Smith on the panel were Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University London and founder of Hacked Off, Harcourt Alleyne from Greenwich Council, local superintendent Parm Sandhu and chief inspector Martin Rolston, and Dr Chris Tomlinson, executive principal at Harris Academy Greenwich. Attendees were divided between those who are currently 18 years old – the age Stephen Lawrence was when he died – and 38 – how old he would be now if he was still alive.
Audience members were asked to consider what the biggest issues were in Eltham and wider British society, covering racism, crime and education, among other issues. Narrowing the skills gap between education and employment was deemed the issue of paramount important.
“The national newspaper newsrooms, if you go into them, are overwhelmingly white and remain so, and actually that’s across journalism across the country,” remarked Cathcart.
What then can be done to improve opportunities for young people in both Eltham and elsewhere? Attendees offered various solutions. Bringing people together, such as police, journalists and politicians, and making use of public places like schools for youth clubs, were two of the suggestions offered. Watch the video below to see what else people said.
The workshop was followed by a debate the next day, highlights of which can be viewed here.