At this time of year I am often invited to drop in on summer activities for young people, some of which I may have funded through a small grants scheme I run.
They can be in church halls or community centres, sports grounds or boxing clubs. I am always happy to do so since one purpose they serve is to keep young people out of mischief and away from those who might otherwise lure them into anti-social activity or even crime.
I recently found myself at the Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, which occupies a quite steeply sloping site next to Burngreave Cemetery.
I was asked to launch their summer programme with the help of local councillor, Jackie Drayton.
For the mainly younger children who go it must seem like a wonderland.
It’s a colourful place. There is a canteen, a zip wire, an enormous slide, a wooden boat, a football pitch, and so on.
We had burgers from the barbecue and some exotic mocktails.
The parents I spoke to – mainly mothers – talked about how important it was for their children and for them.
One mother pointed to the sturdy metal fence that surrounds the playground and said, ‘It’s a safe place. I can bring the children and not have to worry.’
Another spoke about the values that the children learnt from being there – mutual tolerance and respect, how to get on with others, how to share and take your turn.
Activities of this kind go on across the city all the time. The people who run them are largely volunteers, and where they are paid, the wages are, to say the least, modest.
They are also a reminder of how much the years of austerity have eaten into the fabric of our communities and how the losers in that have often been the children.
The new government and its ministers have been showering promises like confetti at a wedding. Naturally, I welcome the pledge to increase police numbers by 20,000 – restoring what has been lost since 2010 – though wondering who is going to pay for them.
But if we are to put back what has been allowed to wither, we need to start with our children. Unless we restore proper provision for young people we leave them at the mercy of the criminal gangs.
They will make attractive offers to them if we don’t.