OPINION: The crime is the waste of time

DEBRA ALLCOCK TYLER, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

Last week I bumped into a former colleague, Teresa Cullen, who runs the Midlands-based organisation Young Potential. The organisation tackles the causes of crime by showing young people a different way of thinking about their future.

The scheme has been a success. It has grown over the past two years from two people with a vision and the princely sum of £3, to nine staff and revenue of around £400,000. But what it takes to maintain that £400,000 is at times farcical - a familiar story in the sector.

Young Potential originally had funding from a unit that wanted to tackle the causes of burglary. Since its clients burgle, it qualified for the grant. But lately street robbery has become the funding priority. The money has been diverted into funding organisations that can show they are tackling the causes of street robbery. And that, of course, means the money that was there to address the causes of burglary has dried up.

Young Potential has had to reapply for funding from a different unit, this time emphasising the effect it can have on reducing street robbery.

In yet another application, to another unit, it has had to emphasise the drug-related aspects of the work it carries out.

The irony is that the people that Young Potential works with burgle, mug and rob on the street to fund their drug habits. It's the same kids on the same programme that uses the same methods to prevent the same behaviours.

Young Potential, like many like organisations, just has to word its applications differently, emphasising burglary, street robbery or drugs or whatever happens to be that week's priority, in order to continue operating. What makes it particularly daft is that it also appears to be the same money.

What will it take to get funders to realise how much effort is wasted by voluntary organisations chasing money, because of spuriously shifting priorities? Let's move away from funding short-term projects into long-term partnerships. And, funders, three years is short term, not long term, particularly when you are working with young people to tackle the causes of crime.

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