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Riot report reveals '500,000 forgotten families'

  • 27 March 2012
  • From the section UK
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A lack of support and opportunity for young people contributed to the outbreak of riots in England last summer, an independent report says.

The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, set up last year, highlights "500,000 forgotten families".

Poor parenting, an inability to prevent reoffending, and a lack of confidence in the police were also cited.

Schools which fail to teach pupils to read and write should be fined, it said.

The report is just one of several investigating the causes of the riots - which spread after the death of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on 4 August.

The panel publishedits interim report last Novemberwhich said the initial riots had been triggered by the police's handling of Mr Duggan's death.

This second stage of the report was due to be published on Wednesday, but was leaked early.

'Poor parenting'

It said: "Families aren't getting the support they need."

It supported an existing programme to help troubled families, but found overlap with those involved in the riots was limited.

"Government and local public services should develop a strategy incorporating the principles of the Troubled Families Programme to help 500,000 'forgotten families' turn their lives around," it said.

Up to 15,000 people were believed to have taken part in the riots - with the majority of those aged under 24 and with poor academic records, the report said.

The communities the panel spoke to blamed the riots on poor parenting.

Complex reasons

The panel's chairman Darra Singh said: "We must give everyone a stake in society. There are people 'bumping along the bottom', unable to change their lives. When people don't feel they have a reason to stay out of trouble, the consequences for communities can be devastating.

"The causes of the riots were complex and there is not one thing that will prevent them from happening again."

The wide-ranging report called for the criminal justice system to not only punish those who committed offences but also to make sure they do not do it again.

The panel recommended schools which fail to raise pupils' literacy rates to the required minimum standard for their age should face a financial penalty.

It also said they should demonstrate how they are building pupils' characters, and give careers advice to each child.

It made dozens of recommendations including:

  • Local authorities should flag up young people from the age of 11 who are at risk of becoming unemployed
  • Government should appoint an "independent champion" to manage conversations between big brands and the government about how to protect children from excessive marketing
  • Young offenders to be offered a mentor when they finish their prison sentences
  • Police services should do more to "debunk myths" on issues that affect how people view their integrity, especially on the issue of deaths of black men in police custody.
  • Police services to review their complaints procedures

It also urged the government to play a bigger role and "provide a job guarantee for all young people who have been out of work for two years or more".

The Met Police were urged to be more transparent about how and why they use their stop and search powers.

The panel said: "In our view, by improving the quality of minor encounters, the Met can dramatically improve their relationships with communities."

Advertising pressure

The panel said it had surveyed local neighbourhoods in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Luton and found 85% of those questioned felt "advertising puts pressure on young people to own the latest products".

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government refused to comment because the report has not been officially published yet.

He said: "We do not comment on leaked documents."

David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham said the report's focus on the role of schools was "a bit unfair" but he needed to see the report.

"Of course there are issues in our schools, but it is so easy when things go wrong to point to a big institution and say the schools should do more.

"I would place more emphasis on family life, on parents and on community."

The shadow higher education minister stressed a significant proportion of those rioting were not school age.

"They were adults, they were men, they were people into their 30s and 40s who did not feel they had a sufficient stake in society and were certainly prepared to stick two fingers up at society as a whole."

Children's Society policy director Enver Solomon said: "We know from our work that there is a significant link between a child's material deprivation and their overall life satisfaction."

Panel chairman Darra Singh said he was unhappy the report was leaked: "We are disappointed that Sky News has leaked contents from a near-final version of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel's final report, which is due to be published tomorrow and is still being finalised.

"Our remit was to give a voice to the communities and victims of the August riots. This leak has impacted on our ability to ensure they receive the widest possible audience," he said.

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