Yesterday it was my pleasure to attend SHAK’s annual celebration and prize-giving.

SHAK (South Hampstead & Kilburn Community Partnership – watch out, there are more initials on the loose here) is ten years old, having started on a bit of a wing and a prayer, it is now a firm feature of the Kilburn landscape.

SHAK incorporates ARC (Alexandra Resource Centre), a play and youth club; and SHELL (South Hampstead Education and Lifelong Learning), an adult skills centre.

Celebrating with some of SHELL's graduates

We celebrated the achievements of local people at both. ARC has squeezed a brand-new, state-of-the-art recording studio into its tiny premises below Rowley Way tenants’ hall and we enjoyed a video of some young stars of the future getting to grips with recording their own tracks (I’ll upload this when it goes online, along with SHAK’s new website).

SHELL has had another successful year, with it’s ESOL (English as a Second Language) courses, UK Online centre and new childcare course which is proving wildly popular with young mums on the estate. In opposition, Labour campaigned against draconian cuts to council funding for the UK Online centre, and we revered those cuts when we got in this May.

SHAK, SHELL and ARC are integral to the life of the Alexandra & Ainsworth Estate– although they definitely don’t exclude non-residents, they are part of the life of the estate and work for its residents, designing and delivering courses and activity which they need and want, from help applying for jobs online to hosting Kickz soccer school on the estate pitch.

John Boyle, the SHELL manager, spoke yesterday of people who, through attending things like ESOL courses at the centre had earned their UK citizenship and had gone to find jobs where they use their new skills.

SHAK is all about helping local people to help themselves. The madness of the Government’s pernicious, ideological approach to cuts (and not to mention the seemingly random allocation of grant to local councils) is that the Coalition says growth will come purely through the private sector, yet the cuts it is making which may well limit what organisation’ like SHAK can do, and in turn limit the ability of people on Rowley Way to improve their employability, get a job (or a better one) and contribute to economic growth.

I should make it clear that I simply don’t know yet how the funding settlement will impact on SHAK – but I don’t expect it to be too good, sadly. For all the talk by the Tories and Lib Dems of the ‘big society’ and being “all in it together”, it is clear that the Government is happy to ignore organisations like SHAK and those on the Alex & Ainsworth estate it serves.

Nevertheless, it was nice to be invited to celebrate SHAK’s successes. Long may they continue.

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