UK riot report reveals 'forgotten families'

Panel urges government to develop strategy to help those who "bump along the bottom" of society turn their lives around.

    Five people died in the August riots and the damage was estimated at $800m [EPA]

    Poor parenting and a lack of support for disenfranchised young people played a major role in sparking last year's British riots, an independent panel reported.

    The report by Riots Communities and Victims Panel, leaked ahead of its presentation to Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, said schools that fail to teach children to read and write should face fines to improve an inadequate education system.

    The panel identified a series of problems facing inner cities, ranging from poor parenting and education to high joblessness that left many people with no stake in society and nothing to lose if they joined the riots.

    It urged the government to develop a strategy for helping half a million "forgotten families" who "bump along the bottom" of society.

    "When people don't feel they have a reason to stay out of trouble, the consequences for communities can be devastating - as we saw last August," panel chair Darra Singh said.

    The panel, set up by the government last year but working independently of it, spoke to riot victims and communities across the country to see what people affected by the riots believed led to them.

    It said that up to 15,000 people took part in the riots, which broke out in north London but spread to other major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, leaving a trail of torched buildings and looted shops in their wake.

    Five people died in England's worst disturbances for decades which cost an estimated $800 million the panel said.

    Hopelessness

    More than 3,800 people have been arrested in London alone in connection with the riots and cases are still being heard by the courts.

    The security situation in London will be under international scrutiny in July and August this year when tourists and sports fans flood to the British capital for the Olympics.

    Many young people the panel met expressed a "sense of hopelessness" and saw no clear path to work in an era of record youth unemployment.

    Noting that a fifth of school leavers can only read at the level expected of an 11-year-old, the panel said schools that fail to teach children to read and write should face fines that would be used to pay for another school to bring them up to the required standard.

    The government should guarantee to find jobs for young people who have been out of work for two years, it said.

    Youth unemployment is at a record high of more than one million in Britain, or 22 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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