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Boxing clever

[06/02/2010 | No comment]

If truth be told I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic. 5 or 6 mornings a week I go for a run or to the gym. So I thought a trip to the New Parks Community Boxing Gym would be a piece of cake.

I couldn’t have been more wrong! After a couple of minutes sparring I was completely exhausted. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I thought I might even be sick. Not exactly the impression I wanted to give as an aspiring politician.

But boxing has got me hooked (pardon the pun), as it has the many boys and girls who use this brilliant community resource every week. The Friday evening I went had kids of all ages, including children who are in the care system and from the local traveller community (obviously the younger ones just do the exercises and don’t actually fight). Its a great way to get fit and healthy, but it also keeps children off the street and out of trouble. Its run by Serina – a fantastic woman who’s making a real difference to families and children in the local community.

Collapsed on my sofa later that evening, I started thinking about what more we could do to help projects like this. Labour’s done a huge amount to help give children the best start in life: extending maternity leave and pay, increasing Child Benefit and tax credits, introducing Child Trust Funds and investing in new Sure Start Children’s Centres and local schools.

But life doesn’t get any easier as kids get older. In fact, most parents will tell you its tougher looking after teenagers, especially trying to find them things to do after school and in the evenings.

So, how about this as an idea for the next manifesto? A new Sure Progress programme – a kind of Sure Start for teenagers – which gives young people things to do like sport and music, and also has on hand help and advice about education, training and work, and looking after your health. (I should at this point hold my hands up and say this idea is shamelessly stolen from my former colleagues at the Institute for Public Policy Research.)

They key would be to make sure this isn’t run like a typical Government initiative but a bottom-up, grass roots programme supporting organisations like the New Parks Community Gym.

I know money is tight, and public spending is going to come under a lot of pressure. But investing in something like this could benefit young people, families and communities – and save us all money in the long run.

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