Wednesday, 10 August 2011

August 2011 Youth Riots Why?

As Parliament is recalled should it posture or lead?

There are solutions but action is needed not empty words and Parliament may need to tell the Executive what to do.
As part of the analysis that needs to take place the British Government of the last three years (both) need to see how far reductions in support to vulnerable young people has been reduced and in what key areas. So, for example, reductions to Catch-22 or YMCA services for example  will result in less support for young people (16 - 26) deemed in or likely to be in crime. This is not an excuse to excuse the thugs of the last few nights, If they had been residents in my old services I would want them dealt with but I would want to know why we had failed. If the service has been reduced however that might be the reason for failure. There is a need to understand why there is a problem now and what we do about it and its not enough just to highlight a lack of funding by the present Government or ring our hands over violence. Its not enough to put the issue thats our collective responsibility back on a Police service Government was trying to reduce either. The Police have done their job, now we must do ours and seek long term solutions.

Youth crime was in hand until fairly recently and reducing, not perfect but getting there in many places. What changed and why?.

 I think we may find that short termism is part of the problem. Initiatives started under Major/Blair had started to work but towards the end of the Brown era the temptation to cut "old programmes" in the face of the bankers thuggery (Lehman Brothers and their friends have been just culpable as the rioters and have caused and continue to cause just as much misery). 

In Lincolnshire youth crime has actually reduced for example, should we be looking at these figures and working out what worked?

This Government should shoulder its share of the responsibility but so too must earlier administrations in treating youth support as a Cinderella service.


What worked: Keep It, if it was cut and it related to youth support, look at returning it.
Now is not the time for posturing or making fine speeches deploring violence - good as that will feel, now is the time for long term well tried solutions.

A final but vital point:

The vast majority of young people did not riot but stayed at home and looked after their friends and family.


  1. Helpful analysis, thanks. A question: Do you think that feelings -- or reality -- of social and political powerlessness can contribute to outbreaks of violence and crime? If so, what could be done about this?
    Regards, Michael..

  2. I think there are two approaches, one concious and one instinctive.
    I suspect there are people who pose the question about their power or lack of it and decide that crime is a way of compensating for their powerlessness. Others will conclude that they do have power and can proceed to test the assumption within a legal system, finding a job seeking promotion perhaps, maybe standing for election.
    The majority of those contributing to the looting, intimidation and damage I believe are acting in a gang context without analysis and driven by a herd instinct. They need guidance and control and they are not receiving it. They are looking also to profit from their gang membership which is a sort of motive.

  3. Of course crime must be (properly) judged and published. Looking to the medium term:

    What I am getting at in part is that there is widespread public dissatisfaction with the way the country is run. Very poor turnout for local elections, lack of trust in politicians. These features are not confined to those involved in recent disorder or looting but are much more widespread. A general improvement in community empowerment, news ways for citizens to take part in at least some important public decisions, would -- we suggest -- help to provide conditions less likely to give rise to riots.

  4. correction: Of course crime must be (properly) judged and punished.

  5. Yes, I agree with your approach, back in 1998 many of us pushed the Citizenship agenda arguing that it was needed in schools to get people thinking about rights and responsibilities quite early on. Good parents who themselves are reasonably aware have always taught their children to vote and engage. I doubt if the majority of looters gave much thought to these issues and there is work to be done there. The adult citizenship approach is crucial but it does need a moral context as well. I would like to see more ways of involving the public and getting citizens involved, being aware of local as well as national news and issues, standing for election, becoming engaged in their communities at a local level. There is, I appreciate, a limit to the contribution people can make if they are juggling jobs, families and maybe elderly relatives too. Others have the time but need the confidence to engage and feel valued. The media has a role too in balancing information about corrupt individuals in public office with the thousands who contribute to public life at a local and national level in an honest way. To be fair local radio and news papers do this far more effectively than the national media. The public have been led to believe that at least the majority of those engaged in politics are corrupt when Britain is among the least politically corrupt countries by comparison with many others. We also tend to pay our political people far less than other Western countries and allow less power at a local level.

  6. You wrote, "I doubt if the majority of looters gave much thought to these issues and there is work to be done there."

    In proposing improvements, reform of democracy, we would not expect to readily reach people who are alienated, marginalised or traumatised. But other people around, in families or as professional carers, would be able to transmit a sense of empowerment, an antidote to hopelessness and helplessness.

    The citizenship education programmes introduced by the last gov. (I rapidly reviewed) have probably not been running long enough to "bite". Do they continue despite "cuts"? They should do. Also we suggest that they should emphasise ways to take part in public business which are effective. Citizens' juries, for instance, are ineffective, only a sort of consultation or education (!) of voters. Improvements to our democracy should enable meaningful participation which must include the right of an electorate to decide on some public issues and to hold the ultimate veto. Otherwise the above positive effects on empowerment etc. will not occur.

  7. Yes, mainly I agree. We are seeing here nearly 25% reduction in youth crime so arguably things like the Supporting People program did start to bite. It remains to be seen what we will see next. For all its rhetoric about tackling the causes of the riots I doubt that this Government has the common sense to make the connection between good SP programmes and good policing properly funded.

  8. It seems that there will be a commission of inquiry about this civil disorder -- if the right questions are chosen then the results could be useful.

    Considering human development, democracy and governance I think that it is important to distinguish between two concepts. On the one hand, help offered to the underprivileged, marginalised or criminal. On the other hand, reforms which provide opportunities for people to start to run or fix their own lives, for instance, opportunities to find reasonable employment or to actively and responsibly take part in running your own community, city, country.

  9. On the basis of "There but for the grace of God go I" I don't quite make your distinction. Many in your first list are there due to the greed and selfishness of others rather than entirely their own fault. Both groups should be enabled according to their needs and then their potential in my opinion.

    In my experience there is no body in our community that could not, given the right circumstances, end up in your first list.

  10. What I'm getting at is the difference between receiving help and becoming active oneself. It's widely accepted that our democracy, local or central, holds little chance for most citizens to become effectively engaged. Most can at best vote for candidates once every few years. Many are alienated from society and politics.

    The last government seemed to approach this problem but did not bring in the relevant reforms. to quote:
    "In 1948 article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set out rights to equal access to public service, to vote in free elections and to take part in government “directly or through freely chosen representatives”.
    1.8 This part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises that democracy can be exercised by electing representatives as part of a representative democratic system. It also makes clear that direct democracy can be part of a democratic system. The principle is that the will of the people is the basis for the authority of government.

    "The case for people and communities having more power
    1.9 This White Paper views political participation and democratic control in this light – not as a privilege grudgingly bequeathed to the citizenry by those with power, but as an activity fundamental to the definition of ‘citizen’, to be claimed as a right."

    Source: Communities in control: real people, real power
    Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government by Command of Her Majesty 9 July 2008
    Further, an old insight from the USA civil rights movement goes along the lines of: If you are down it may not be your own fault. But it's your responsibility to pick yourself up from the floor!