Riot report reveals '500,000 forgotten families'


Panel chairman Darra Singh: "Where people feel there's no consequences to their actions, they'll go out and damage, loot, and wreak havoc"

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 published its interim report last November which 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.


Last summer's days of disturbances followed a fatal shooting by police in London.

But the trouble spread to several other parts of England and this report says the roots of the riots lie in problems shared between those cities.

There are young people on the streets of Salford, Manchester, Birmingham and beyond who will all tell you that unemployment is a trap they can't escape.

However, there are people in those neighbourhoods who insist that those same young people aren't doing enough to help themselves.

The owner of a Manchester shop badly damaged in the riots pointed to the long criminal records of many convicted of involvement in the rioting.

"Crime is their job," he told me.

He pointed at long sentences being the best deterrent, although he accepted finding ways of properly rehabilitating those involved was important.

However, practically helping families to leave what the panel calls 'the bottom of society' will take a great deal of work and resources from public services already facing cuts.

"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".

Panel members

  • Darra Singh, the former JobCentre Plus chief executive.
  • Simon Marcus, a youth leader in Tottenham, who was also the Conservative candidate in Barking, east London, in 2010.
  • Heather Rabbatts, a barrister, has served as chief executive of Merton and Lambeth councils in London, and is also a former governor of the BBC.
  • Maeve Sherlock is a life peer who has served as head of the National Council for One Parent Families and the Refugee Council.

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.

Start Quote

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

End Quote David Lammy Labour MP

"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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  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    It takes two to tango.

    Neither the citizens nor the society is completely to blame for anything. (Usually), There are roots in the environment that set about a start of such thing and individuals who too weak to resist the opportunity to do something bad. Consider it a perfect storm, where all the conditions meet just in the right place and all share responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    The reason for the riots was pure criminality. Many generations in this country have grown up with the same problems listed in the report. Too many people now want to be "rich" or "famous", if they cannot be that they are content to be "criminals". There should be no excuse for smashing shop windows, stealing items, starting fires,etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Sigh, the usual triads of "they're all scum", "back in my day there was never any problems", "harsher penalties" and so forth. None of this deals with the problem however and just further condems people and excludes them further. It's very easy to criticise from middle class or upper working class pedistools what the "underclass" should be doing, when most no better, just labeled differently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Yes, materialistic values predominate because government relies on over consumption to provide jobs and tax revenues.An artificially high value is placed on some commodities. Politicians talk of sustainable economic growth but that is impossible given finite world resources, a growing population and an economy which depends on consumption. Are we safeguarding the needs of future generations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Nobody is even mentioning corporal punishment, not even to rule it out. This threatens to make ordinary people, for whom it reintroduction would be popular, feel very cynical about the political elite who discuss this situation in increasingly irrelevant terms.


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