After the Riots, the final report by the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel chaired by Darra Singh, concludes that ‘the key to avoiding future riots is to have communities that work’, and warns that unless immediate action is taken, riots will re-occur.
To build social and economic resilience in communities, the Panel makes 63 recommendations. They cover early family intervention, particularly for the 500,000 ‘forgotten families’, support for the most educationally disadvantaged and for NEETs, character building, protection from ‘excessive marketing’, intensive alternatives to custody and support following release from custody, and measures to improve public perception of police integrity.
Through the Panel’s Neighbourhood Survey, communities speak of the breakdown of their communities, loss of trust in the public sector and the police, and the devastating impact of youth unemployment. The Panel’s recommendations focus principally on:
- early intervention and support for children and parents, especially the 500,000 ‘forgotten families’ ‘bumping along the bottom of society’ and more likely to be home to the rioters than the 120,000 families targeted by the Troubled Families Programme
- support to young people with the greatest educational needs during their schooling to enable them to reach age-appropriate literacy levels, and an end to unsatisfactory Pupil Referral Units
- training for NEETs and a ‘Youth Job Promise’ for those unemployed for more than a year
- a ‘wraparound’ support programme for young adults following release from custody, and intensive rehabilitation programmes as an alternative to custody, to help deal with drug and alcohol addiction and find employment
- better complaints management and police engagement with communities, and institutional reform.
By stating that ‘the key to avoiding future riots is to have communities that work’, the Panel puts the spotlight on the strategic role of local authorities and community groups, as well as on elected councillors to help communities ‘re-connect’. However, the budget cuts imposed on councils have resulted in diminished resources and staff, as well as dramatic cuts to voluntary organisations.
The welcome focus on early family intervention comes at a time when reduced funding for family support schemes such as Sure Start has been pulling in the opposite direction. The recommendation that local areas commission the Family Nurse Partnerships for all first-time teenage mothers by the end of the next Spending Review Period is an important one. Given that funding for the doubling of existing partnerships by 2015 is not ring-fenced, full Partnership coverage would require additional, ring-fenced funding, with priority given to the most deprived areas.
The Panel has rightly made the Youth Job Promise a Red Line which all three political parties should endorse. However, the stagnant economy, and uncertainty over vocational job-creation in schemes such as the Green Deal, puts a question mark on the Promise’s deliverability. It will be interesting to see how the ten neighbourhood-level Community Budget pilots perform in delivering targets on that score.
After the Riots fails to address the impact of growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, a phenomenon about which the communities interviewed are all too aware. Its recommendations for protecting young people against ‘excessive marketing’ are patently contradicted by the general drive for higher consumer spending to improve the economy’s prospects.