Prince Harry hails ‘vital’ work of under-threat youth centres

Prince Harry Credit: Chris Jackson/PA

The Duke of Sussex and Chuka Umunna have spoken in praise of threatened youth centres as they celebrated a half-term project feeding children and keeping them fit.

Harry met the politician – who dramatically left the Labour Party with six colleagues on Monday – during a visit to a youth centre in the MP’s south London constituency of Streatham.

The duke described the centres, where young people have for generations met to do activities and socialise, as vital “community” hubs providing spaces where they could talk about issues affecting them.

Mr Umunna said: “I’m not doing politics, it’s about the organisation,” during the visit to Streatham Youth and Community Trust’s John Corfield Centre to see the national Fit and Fed campaign in action.

Harry meets participants in a jiu-jitsu session Credit: Chris Jackson/PA

Harry watched youngsters enjoying themselves on a trampoline, while others played pool and he even helped staff serve lunch to the children.

Speaking later about some of the issues with panel discussion groups, he said: “We’re adding to social isolation, whether it’s the nine-year-old on the phone, or on computer games or whatever it is, for young people nowadays to be caught up in a world like this, we are adding to a whole list of issues that already existed.

“And then by closing places like this down – the one place which they really have to come and have a normal conversation, be it about mental health, their lifestyle, issues at home, whatever it is.

“We all understand it, we all get it, but these places are literally a community hub, and I don’t think people over the years have actually understood or realised how vital this is to the younger generation.”

Launched in 2016, Fit and Fed is a campaign led by StreetGames which aims to tackle the holiday gap of hunger, inactivity and isolation.

The project offers activity sessions and a nutritious meal every day for local children and the duke has visited a number of the projects in recent years.

Mr Umunna said the youth centre was providing a vital service to young people in his community and added: “We have amongst the highest rates of child poverty in the country.

“We are the eighth most deprived local authority in London, we’re in the top 30 most deprived in England, and around 35-36% of our young people are children living in poverty.

“So this particular programme here is absolutely vital and makes a real difference.”

He said Harry’s visit would “shine a light on all the good work that’s being done, in order to attract funding”.

“You cannot rely on public sector funding at the moment for youth services, much of which is non-statutory, because it’s being cut to the bone – so we have to diversify the funding streams for projects like this.”