Luke wants to be a vet.
But you’ve heard him. He doesn’t think he’ll make it. He doesn’t know how to make it from where he is. He’s fatalistic – he thinks he’ll probably end up like his sister.
There are things we can do. He needs stable role-models. He needs people to say, this is how to behave, settle down and work hard. He needs to see that success comes from opportunity AND your own hard work. He needs understand how to compete with the best. He has to be pushed to achieve his ambitions and taught how to identify and quantify them.
These are all things that, let’s be frank, most people reading this will have had by osmosis. But if you’re not lucky like us, then you’re kind of left to chance. That’s not acceptable in today’s Britain. There are lots of organisations working on opening these opportunities up to children like Luke. But there aren’t enough of them, and they can’t get into the hardest to reach families.
Jon Snow, who hosted the panel discussion after the film was shown, said that he was finding fundraising for his charities easier than before. He wondered whether this was a sign of a significant social shift? I hope so. I hope we as a society have realised that we are both individuals and part of something greater.
I’ve noticed an enormous increase in corporate social responsibility programmes in recent years. And perhaps more interestingly, an increase in their ambition and their breadth. But probably the most significant thing is the increase in private philanthropy. Two things I’m vaguely connected to have recently highlighted how governments, businesses and individuals can work together. The Legacy 10 campaign is – of course – aimed at very rich individuals, who are liable to inheritance tax. They can leave ten per cent of their total estate to charities, and in return get ten per cent off their IHT bill. The second thing was a trip to Berlin to discuss the Big Society with some German MPs and think-tanks, where not one participant sneered, or said it wouldn’t work, or questioned the motivations of those involved.
There are two lessons here for all of us. The first is that impotent raging (a la Occupy London) isn’t the answer; there are concrete decisions we can take together which will make a difference. The second is that because, as Jon Snow sensibly suggested this morning, statism has crowded out innovation and much incentive to make changes, there needs to be much greater openness to the third sector and to private initiatives. As with so many social problems, the answers are not just about money (and we’ve seen that hosing money at problems doesn’t make them go away). The answers revolve around partnership, innovation, personalisation and sustained commitment.
Having said that, neither this film nor any of the organisations involved have all the answers. But it does show those of us with comfortable lives what the problem is. We have the tools, the capacity and the wherewithal to find answers. And we have the moral responsibility to do so.