Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham riots: 'Cuts are causing misery'

Image caption Revd Bryan Scott said engaging with disaffected youth only addressed one half of the social problems

"You can do all the talking you like but what we need is action," says Revd Bryan Scott, a community leader in Handsworth, Birmingham.

The area was one of several in the city that was hit by rioting during the summer.

Mr Scott, the leader of Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church, said now the media spotlight had moved away, it was down to the people who lived there to pick up the pieces.

A group of about 30-40 youths was seen breaking into stores in Soho Road, Handsworth, on the first night of rioting in the city in August.

They left behind them a trail of broken shop windows and burnt out cars and also caused fire damage to the local police station.

Elsewhere in the city, looters attacked shops in the Mailbox, the Bull Ring and the main shopping streets in the city centre. On the second night of rioting three men were killed while protecting community stores from looters in Winson Green.

Church attendance rise

Mr Scott said: "It's a combination of factors really, you've got a lot of young people who have nothing to do, with no jobs and councils across the country are closing down youth clubs.

"If you squeeze hard enough eventually you are going to get a reaction."

He said his church was trying to do its bit to address the problems of a disaffected youth, by running its own youth club, homework club and Dads and Lads club where church leaders take boys away on supervised trips and act as their mentors.

Image caption Mr Scott said petty crime was increasing as the economic crisis deepened

The father-of-two said: "We've got them going on MySpace, we've got iPhones and Twitter accounts and we try to put on activities they will enjoy to do with music and IT.

"We are often competing with the TV and internet for people's time but we've got to try to get them coming to church and give young people a chance to learn about a different value system.

"If you never go to church how can you hear what God has planned for you, if you don't communicate with him?"

Mr Scott said engaging with young people was only half of the story though as many of his other parishioners were also experiencing hard economic times.

'Me, me, me, values'

"Church attendance has gone up by about 5% in the past 12 months and we were already quite full.

Image caption The conditions for the August riots still existed and were getting worse in many cases, Revd Scott said

"We have about 300 people coming to church. Many of them are worried about losing their job and not being able to keep up with their mortgages and they come here looking for hope."

In response the church has started running debt counselling schemes and giving out food parcels to provide practical help to people in need.

"People are getting more desperate too I have noticed. We've had our purse nicked, that hasn't happened before. Other churches have had lead stolen from their roof."

Mr Scott said he was "troubled" to note the social conditions that gave rise to August's rioting and looting were still present and getting worse.

The community responded well to the riots, organising its own neighbourhood clean-up and attending meetings to discuss the potential causes for the riots, but he said no progress would be made without addressing people's "I, I, I, me, me, me" consumerist values.

He added: "The people who run this country need to realise what effect their budget decisions are having, how cuts are impacting the people at the bottom of the ladder.

"We can try to do our best to fill the gap but we don't have the funds or the resources that government has."

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