A blog about youth crime. Nettle that must be grasped; how can active young men and women currently running and taking part in criminal gangs be drawn into a positive relationship with the community?

22 May 2018

BLOG ABOUT YOUTH CRIME & HELPING END IT. 

The police rightly arrest them for criminal activity. I suggest we need to create a parallel system of rewards for participation in schemes financed by the Mayor's initiative. 

Last weekend in Tottenham we were briefed by representatives of City Hall about applying for grants to fund projects which will support young people in London.(Kahn promises £15mpa to tackle youth crime).

I was involved in such a project in Stevenage in the early 1970's. Young men were returning from borstal after they had been involved in a murder when fighting another gang. There were two key differences making that project easier to run than now. There were no benefit sanctions and the individuals' benefit was worth double its current value. They were allowed to a keep a benefit they could live on if they participated in the project, which was making wooden cut-outs of animal shapes for primary schools. The police must always arrest people for criminal activity but there needs to be a parallel system of rewards for young people when they participate in the Mayors projects and abandon the drug trade; it is all too easy to deliver cocaine at £50 a trip on a bike, several times a week, to middle class and wealthy people. 

The nettle that must be grasped is; how can active young men and women currently running and taking part in criminal gangs be drawn into a positive relationship with the community? The police rightly arrest them for criminal activity. I suggest we need to create a parallel system of rewards for participation in schemes financed by the Mayor's initiative. 

That will need cooperation between local projects and local jobcentres. Frank Field's Work and Pensions Committee has a benefit sanctions inquiry at the moment and perhaps they could make some recommendations, but the sooner the better. This is from the evidence that W&P committee has received. 

"She had been sanctioned for failing to tell the jobcentre that she would not be attending a meeting, even though she was in full-time education at the time and had told them both in person and by phone that she would not be able to attend."

In 1973 the Stevenage Youth Workshop offered them activity immediately they came out of prison, it was not compulsory.  They were referred by the probation service. I arranged for the jobcentre (DSS) to let the Stevenage gang keep their benefits so long as they were working at the Stevenage Youth Workshop.  

Here and now in Tottenham the young people ought to be exempted from the benefit sanction by the jobcentre ​when the organisers of a project approved by City Hall inform the jobcentre they are regularly attending the project. 

Not only that.  I have said and written so often that the single adult unemployment benefit at £73.10pw is hopelessly inadequate. It's value in 1973 was double what it is now. The £73.10pw ought to be increased to £100 when they participate in an approved project. The objection to that will be that they will spend the money on drugs. That wont do. There are nearly four million people in the UK receiving those benefits. (see ONS BEN01). The principle should be make sure everyone has the minimum income needed for a good health and then deal with the alcoholics and drug addicts, who are found at every level of income.  

Unless that connection between jobcentre and the projects happens then the depth of poverty young people experience with low benefits and sanctions will continue to push them towards assembling to fight for the lucrative drug trade. It is oh so easy to deliver a parcel of heroin at say £50 a time on a bike several times a week - which is a lot better than the jobcentre or a zero hours contract. 

My sympathies are with the deprived parents of so many young people; they do not have the income to provide their children with a decent life style. Through no fault of their own the parents are often struggling with rent and council tax arrears plus other debts and consequent stress. .   

There is another very serious reason why the single adult benefit ought to be increased. It is far too low to provide a healthy diet for women before and during pregnancy which adds to the risk of low birthweight and permanent developmental brain disorder in womb and their babies. I am on the advisory council of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. Low birth-weight is between 10-12% in the Northumberland Park ward.

Rev Paul Nicolson,

22 May 1918. 


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