Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has praised a “fantastic” outdoor activity centre in Hipperholme for the service it provides to young people.
Mr Corbyn and Shadown Home Secretary Diane Abbott visited the Sunnyvale Fishery and Outdoor Activity Centre, which provides activities for young people and ex-offenders in Calderdale.
The centre also host talks by West Yorkshire Police on knife crime awareness, gangs, drugs and alcohol abuse.
“What I like about this facility is the facility itself - the lake, the woodland - and there’s great activities going on,” he said.
“Chatting to the young people using it, they’re really enjoying it and benefiting from it.
“It’s not just that they’re outdoors and in the open air, but they’re also learning things about team-work. If you’re climbing up a climbing wall, going in a canoe or doing bushcraft, and you’ve got to do it as a group, then you learn about team-work.
“They may be good or not so good academically, but they start doing things practically here, and sometimes roles are reversed.
“I’ve taken kids on camping trips who’ve had all different kinds of educational experiences, and suddenly lots of things change because some kid turns out to be really good at building stuff or making things.
“I think this facility is fantastic and I really complement the volunteers who have helped make it happen, the owners who have allowed the site to be used and the statutory services that have got involved and supported it. That’s something we need far more of round the country.
“There’s isn’t always a wood and a lake available across the country, but there’s usually something you can do - adventure playgrounds, youth centres, things like that which are really important for young people.”
Mr Corbyn joined in with the activities on offer, trying his hand at archery and canoeing with the young people at the centre.
“They were wonderful,” he added. “We had a really good chat, we timed one young fellow who was pretty good at climbing up the wall, we had a chat with others about archery.
“I was persuaded to try my hand at archery, and we had a chat with others who were doing canoeing, and they’ve got a fire going for roasting marshmallows.”
Mr Corbyn said it’s time the country changed it’s approach and attitude to young people. He said that while Brexit has dominated the political agenda, other issues such as youth crime, have been sidelined.
“Obviously Brexit is a very important issue, but there are issues of housing, local government spending, health and young people,” he said.
“The crime rate, sadly, is rising. £800m has been taken from youth budgets in the past nine years, and many councils have either closed or sold off youth centres, youth workers have lost their jobs, very few councils are managing to maintain a proper youth service.
“That then leads to young people not having enough to do, getting involved in bad activities and bad things.
“I want to see a statutory demand for youth services all over the country, I want to see a refunding of our youth services.
“But also recognise that there are problems with over-competitive schools, which end up with pupils sometimes being excluded because they’re underachieving.
“Also, look at our young offenders institutes and youth justice system where there’s a far too high rate of re-offending.
“It’s about looking at young people in the round and saying ‘we need to change our approach and change our attitude’.
“We have brilliant young people who want to achieve things, but sadly don’t get the opportunity to do it.
“I’ve come here to this wonderful outdoor centre where young people clearly really enjoy being here, and learn to do things together, learn about team-work, about natural things, but also doing exciting things like archery, canoeing, wall climbing - I want that for all kids.”