From the Press Association:
The riots and mindless violence expose a broken section of British society which is “utterly detached from the values and responsibilities we expect of our fellow citizens”, a think-tank said today.
Gavin Poole, executive director of The Centre for Social Justice, said many of the children and teenagers involved were from a “lost generation” and “face a life on benefits in ghettos scarred by poor housing and street gangs, completely devoid of aspiration”.
“In such communities, they have been written off by society repeatedly,” he said. “These are the actions of people who live in chaos, hopelessness and poverty. “What they are doing is criminal, completely wrong and must be punished. But it is not entirely random; they believe they have nothing to lose and no one to answer to. Some even consider it normal.”
He added: “As wrong and unacceptable as it is, they project anarchy in public because it is what surrounds them at home. Many will have never known stable parenting or fatherhood role models. Such family breakdown and dysfunction has rendered countless young people damaged and directionless.”
Poole went on: “The appalling scenes on the streets of London, and elsewhere in the UK, should be condemned unreservedly. The actions of those people, many of whom are reported to be children and teenagers, are endangering lives, attacking police officers, destroying buildings and looting goods. It is criminal behaviour and must be met with the full force of the law. Yet we have to recognise that this mayhem also exposes a broken section of British society – utterly detached from the values and responsibilities we expect of our fellow citizens.”
Arthur Cornell, chairman of the Family Education Trust, which aims to support ‘traditional’ values, said problem youngsters must take responsibility for their actions and learn to accept authority: “It’s as though we have been preparing our youngsters for doing something like this. We have robbed parents of their authority and side-stepped them with how youngsters are disciplined or helped with personal relationships – they don’t talk to their parents.
“There’s an element of saying to them with the message at secondary school ‘You can do what you like and say what you like as no-one can touch you’. There will be a minority of youngsters who will think there is no authority to which they are subject.”
Cornell said those who have caused such mayhem often wrongly believe they have been “robbed of a chance to do something” and feel entitled to be destructive. “You don’t overcome evil with evil, but with good,” he said. “If you have a good cause you don’t hide your face from what you are up to.”
Nick Wilkie, chief executive of London Youth, a network of 400 community organisations in the capital, said: “We do not believe closing youth clubs has caused this. Blaming events on cuts risks letting violent criminals off the hook. Equally, the fact that there are large numbers of unemployed young people with nothing to do this summer won’t help.”
He went on: “Today, the priority is to bring calm to the streets. Youth clubs all over London are staying open today, working hard with young people who are frightened and with young people who have a choice to make. Good youth workers have a critical role to play helping young people make the right choice tonight. We need to remember too that the vast majority of young people play an active and positive role in their communities.
“When order has been restored, all sections of society need to talk about how we support young people, especially in times of economic chaos. We know community-based youth work has a powerful role to play.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), suggested parents had to ask themselves tough questions about why youngsters have been caught up in the riots.
“Parents are not willing to say ‘no’,” he told BBC Online. “That short, simple word is an important part of any child’s upbringing. It’s desperately important that children have a sense of right and wrong. But we often come across children who have never been told that something is wrong.”
Lightman said schools are often the only place where many youngsters are given boundaries. “Schools are the last havens of an orderly society for many young people,” he said.