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Politics no image

Published on August 13th, 2012 | by Kirsty McKellar
Image ©

Member of the London Met riot police © hozinga
  This time last year Britain was left reeling from the aftermath of the UK riots that seemed to take everyone by surprise and destroyed many communities across the county. They began after Mark Duggan was shot dead by police in Tottenham with no explanation as to why. Disturbances then spiralled out of control with thousands of young people across the country getting involved in riots and looting. This week, Boris Johnson told the BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the riots revealed ‘deep social problems’ that still need to be addressed a year on. Discussions of our society one year on from the riots seem to be split down the middle, some arguing that nothing has changed and some that the country is a different place now. Jason Featherstone, director or Surviving our Streets (a young people’s charity), believes that things are ‘still as raw as a year ago’ and that there could easily be a repeat of last year’s riots. Whereas many people think that the Olympics being held in London has resulted in the country pulling together, making a repeat of the disturbances highly unlikely. Following the riots young people’s voices were largely absent from media coverage, but have they been heard now? Seemingly not, as large-scale unemployment was cited as one of the key causes for the disturbances, yet youth unemployment is still climbing despite some government investment and a ‘Youth Contract’. In the period of March-May 2012, 1.02 million young people aged 16-24 were unemployed. This is down 10,000 on the previous quarter but up 107,000 on the same quarter in 2011. Boris Johnson stressed that getting young people into work was ‘the best single long-term solution for rioting and bad behaviour’. We were promised more jobs for young people in a bid to get them off the streets, however the number of job placements fell for the second consecutive month in July. According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation there is a ‘high degree of uncertainty’ among employers. Although ups and downs in employment rates are to be expected, temporary employment has seen an eighth consecutive month of contraction, and Bernard Brown of KPMG stated that the rate at which employers are recruiting has decreased for the second month. A Neighbourhood Survey found that 83% of people feel that youth unemployment is still a problem in their local area, and 71% of residents surveyed feel that there are insufficient employment opportunities for young people. As for getting young people into education, the rise in tuition fees is putting off thousands of students. The Independent Riots Communities and Victims Panel were set up by the government to tackle the root causes of last summer’s riots. Their report recommended that the government should provide a job guarantee for all young people who have been out of work for two years or more, however this has not happened. The report also advocated increased levels of public trust in the police, as the police were heavily criticised for their handling of their riots and for allowing the violence to escalate. But public sector cuts could be having the opposite effect. Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire police, has warned that government spending cuts will leave police officers unable to cope with a repeat of the riots. Bettison believes that public disorder is an ever-present risk, and that the Home Office’s demand that forces axe 20% from their budgets by 2015 will put public safety ‘in jeopardy’. We should also be concerned about the impact of government cuts on youth schemes and projects, designed to get young people off the streets. Boris Johnson acknowledged that ‘life is considerably tougher than it was before the crunch’, and poverty and inequality are closely linked to crime therefore policies to tackle social and economic inequality should be implemented to prevent future public disorder. The World Values Survey found that there is evidence that inequality reduces social cohesion, weakens community life and lowers levels of trust, all root causes of the riots. Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, feels that more needs to be done to prevent riots happening again and it is ‘very disappointing that the government has so far failed to set out a proper course of action’. Clearly it is important that these issues are addressed, and soon. After speaking to many affected communities, the Riots Communities and Victims panel found that many residents do not feel that public services are doing enough to address issues related to the riots, such as poor parenting, truancy, youth unemployment and tackling reoffending. And while people wanted to see meaningful punishment they also wanted to ensure the rioters could live more positive lives. Tottenham MP David Lammy, said that Tottenham has ‘pulled together’ since the riots but the original problems are still ongoing. Despite £70 million being pumped into inner city areas of London to try and avoid a repeat of the violence, it is clear that more needs to be done to address the social problems behind the riots perhaps requiring an increased role for the state.

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Do the social problems behind last year’s riots still exist?

Member of the London Met riot police © hozinga

 

This time last year Britain was left reeling from the aftermath of the UK riots that seemed to take everyone by surprise and destroyed many communities across the county. They began after Mark Duggan was shot dead by police in Tottenham with no explanation as to why. Disturbances then spiralled out of control with thousands of young people across the country getting involved in riots and looting. This week, Boris Johnson told the BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the riots revealed ‘deep social problems’ that still need to be addressed a year on. Discussions of our society one year on from the riots seem to be split down the middle, some arguing that nothing has changed and some that the country is a different place now. Jason Featherstone, director or Surviving our Streets (a young people’s charity), believes that things are ‘still as raw as a year ago’ and that there could easily be a repeat of last year’s riots. Whereas many people think that the Olympics being held in London has resulted in the country pulling together, making a repeat of the disturbances highly unlikely.

Following the riots young people’s voices were largely absent from media coverage, but have they been heard now? Seemingly not, as large-scale unemployment was cited as one of the key causes for the disturbances, yet youth unemployment is still climbing despite some government investment and a ‘Youth Contract’. In the period of March-May 2012, 1.02 million young people aged 16-24 were unemployed. This is down 10,000 on the previous quarter but up 107,000 on the same quarter in 2011. Boris Johnson stressed that getting young people into work was ‘the best single long-term solution for rioting and bad behaviour’. We were promised more jobs for young people in a bid to get them off the streets, however the number of job placements fell for the second consecutive month in July. According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation there is a ‘high degree of uncertainty’ among employers. Although ups and downs in employment rates are to be expected, temporary employment has seen an eighth consecutive month of contraction, and Bernard Brown of KPMG stated that the rate at which employers are recruiting has decreased for the second month. A Neighbourhood Survey found that 83% of people feel that youth unemployment is still a problem in their local area, and 71% of residents surveyed feel that there are insufficient employment opportunities for young people. As for getting young people into education, the rise in tuition fees is putting off thousands of students.

The Independent Riots Communities and Victims Panel were set up by the government to tackle the root causes of last summer’s riots. Their report recommended that the government should provide a job guarantee for all young people who have been out of work for two years or more, however this has not happened. The report also advocated increased levels of public trust in the police, as the police were heavily criticised for their handling of their riots and for allowing the violence to escalate. But public sector cuts could be having the opposite effect. Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire police, has warned that government spending cuts will leave police officers unable to cope with a repeat of the riots. Bettison believes that public disorder is an ever-present risk, and that the Home Office’s demand that forces axe 20% from their budgets by 2015 will put public safety ‘in jeopardy’. We should also be concerned about the impact of government cuts on youth schemes and projects, designed to get young people off the streets.

Boris Johnson acknowledged that ‘life is considerably tougher than it was before the crunch’, and poverty and inequality are closely linked to crime therefore policies to tackle social and economic inequality should be implemented to prevent future public disorder. The World Values Survey found that there is evidence that inequality reduces social cohesion, weakens community life and lowers levels of trust, all root causes of the riots. Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, feels that more needs to be done to prevent riots happening again and it is ‘very disappointing that the government has so far failed to set out a proper course of action’. Clearly it is important that these issues are addressed, and soon.

After speaking to many affected communities, the Riots Communities and Victims panel found that many residents do not feel that public services are doing enough to address issues related to the riots, such as poor parenting, truancy, youth unemployment and tackling reoffending. And while people wanted to see meaningful punishment they also wanted to ensure the rioters could live more positive lives. Tottenham MP David Lammy, said that Tottenham has ‘pulled together’ since the riots but the original problems are still ongoing. Despite £70 million being pumped into inner city areas of London to try and avoid a repeat of the violence, it is clear that more needs to be done to address the social problems behind the riots perhaps requiring an increased role for the state.

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About the Author

Kirsty McKellar

Kirsty has recently graduated from the University of Liverpool, obtaining a degree in Politics and Criminology (BA Hons). She is mostly interested in British politics, particularly the policies of the current coalition government. After completing her dissertation on the reasons for youth voter apathy with a First classification, she has developed a keen interest in young people’s relationship with and participation in politics. Kirsty has also undertaken some valuable work experience with her local MP, Esther McVey. She enjoyed the experience of working in local politics with Members of Parliament and Wirral Borough Council, helping to organise a charity event for the Big Lottery Fund. Kirsty intends to move to London this year to pursue a career in politics and social research, as it is something that she has always been passionate about.



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