What is the price of Hope?

In short, around about £19,000 per year. If you’re a tax-payer or a commissioner of health or social services then this is the average cost per year to give hope/to help a young person with moderate needs in a disadvantaged community. It can be ten times higher if we let that young person graduate to residential care or custody at a secure school or youth offender institution.

Personally, I don’t believe everything should be a commodity, but when you spend your time looking at social impact, you quickly realise that everything has a value. This makes me sad, but you get what you pay for – is this the new mantra of the 2020s (- can you order Hope on-line, is it valuable, is hope beyond some of our most excluded young people?). I want to tell you about my thoughts on not having Hope and that it has a very real cost to us all.

I’m delighted to be supporting the Hope 2020 campaign (#Hope2020 on twitter and website launched 1st September) driven by the Damilola Taylor Trust and the growing Hope Collective which asks us all to think about the last 20 years since Damilola’s death (a 10 year old boy who died after being stabbed in a Peckham stairwell on the way home from school). Twenty years on and many of the same challenges beset young people to a point where you have to strip it back and start to look at basic human development and the principle of Hope.

I guess I was lucky. As a young man I had some good friends, went to an OK school – this was enough to give me Hope. Hope that I could do some great things. Some of my hopes were a bit out there (to be a professional sportsman, play for Chelsea), some I was encouraged to achieve (study and do a job I like), others (raising a family of my own) I’m still working on. But Hope has always been with me. This is not the case for many young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. They are losing Hope.

It may be because of the absence of those simple things I had, it may because of negative influences (a gang or substance misuse), it may be because of adverse traumatic events (daily exposure to violence), a pandemic, 10 years of austerity, etc. The outcome is the same, some young people are increasingly vulnerable and it’s a downward spiral. Hope, resilience, aspiration, confidence evaporate quickly when there isn’t someone there to help or someone there to inspire.

When this happens then there is a big human cost. There is also an economic cost. Being removed from school, offending, having a mental health need, being safeguarded, being stabbed, or simply not training or working has a cost. The cost to the individual is enormous (many youth service experts can tell you about this). I want to look at the cost to society. To provide the services I mention is high (believe me, just six months providing alternative education, health and social care to moderate needs averages out at £19,000 a year per person using recognised cost indexes) and can go on for years, even across generations.

Why not act earlier and prevent racking up these economic and social costs? This is the language of social impact. Why not offer the support, guidance, help in a structured way to young people (from within their local communities via innovative support arrangements) so that they hold on to their Hope? In fact, why not top up their Hope at key times when they need it through mentoring, help to get into training/work, help to have the confidence to not be vulnerable. In comparison, doing this costs about a quarter of £19,000.. Many communities are struggling (overused foodbanks, domestic violence growth, mental health challenges, unemployment is up). Hope is needed, it is very valuable – not having is the highest price of all.