Children would be better off watching TV than attending youth clubs, says Hodge

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Many teenagers would be better off spending their evenings in front of the television than going to their local youth club, the Children's minister, Margaret Hodge, said yesterday.

Ms Hodge, who was addressing the Institute for Public Policy Research, said that too many clubs just offered young people "a place to go". "Just 'hanging out' not only does nothing for young people but research shows us it can have negative outcomes," she added.

The research, which was commissioned from London University's Institute of Education by the Government, found that teenagers who spent time in "unfocused" youth provision were more likely to suffer poor exam results and be lured into a life of crime and drugs. "Looked at baldly," Ms Hodge said, "this research tells us that young people would have been better off at home watching television than spending their time with others in this way. Without focus or organisation, this sort of provision positively helped young people down the wrong road."

She said part of the problem was that "all too often teenagers get what adults decide is right for them". The Government is expected to publish a Green Paper on youth provision in late February.