My Lords, I am glad to have the chance to debate this issue, and I am most grateful to all noble Lords who are here today. Looking around the Room, I can see a range of expertise and wisdom that far outstrips mine, so I am very grateful indeed and look forward to hearing all the contributions this afternoon.
The riots last August shocked the world. The Riots Communities and Victims Panel, of which I was a member, was set up to explore the causes of the riots and to consider how communities can be made more socially and economically resilient in order to prevent future disorder. At the end of March 2012, we presented our final report to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition making a series of recommendations that we believe, taken together, could help to prevent a rerun of those five days last August. I confess that I am disappointed that we have not yet had a response from the Government or even a date on which we might expect one. I hope the Minister can tell us more today.
We spent seven months on this process. We were a cross-party group and produced a consensual report even when, on occasion, that was a challenge. Along the way, we gathered a lot of facts, as anyone who has glanced at the report will see. Up to 15,000 individuals actively participated, and there were countless more bystanders. Five thousand crimes were recorded, five people died and the cost is probably up to half a billion pounds. Thinking about it now, in preparation for this debate, it is the people who still haunt me—an older couple we met who had been forced to leave their home in the middle of the night, evacuated into the middle of a riot. When we met them some weeks later, they were still traumatised and homeless. I met a young mother who talked about the fact that months after the riot her son still cried whenever he heard a siren. We met people who had spent 25 years building up their businesses and had just been holding on in the teeth of the recession for whom this was the last straw—not only the damage in the riot but the drop in footfall that followed. I also very clearly remember the young men we met in prison. I think about the one who seemed nonchalant when we went to visit, the one on suicide watch and, probably most of all, the one who said that when he got to prison someone asked him what he wanted to do with his life. It was memorable because nobody had ever done that before and he must have been 19 or 20.
So what do we know of those who took part in the riots? Mostly they were young men, although that is probably an historical truth as well as a current one. Only a quarter were under 18, but almost three-quarters were under 25. Most of these young people had poor academic records. Nine out of 10 were known to the police, and a third had been in prison. Our own analysis found that 70% of those arrested came from the 30% most deprived areas. I must sound a note of caution on the data, particularly in relation to those who were convicted or arrested. Inevitably, people known to the police are caught first, so there are still many cases to be processed and it may well be that those involved were from a much wider background.
Of the children brought before the courts at the time of our interim report two-thirds had special educational needs of some sort. On average, they were missing a day of school a week. They were much more likely than average to live in the 10% poorest areas, to be receiving free school meals and to have been excluded from school at some point. The millionaire’s daughter, beloved of news reports, is atypical. I guess that is why she is news. None of this is to excuse people who took part in the riots. People must take responsibility for their actions, but we need to understand them.
Of course, most people, even from the most deprived areas, did not riot. One of things I found most interesting in going round was when we asked people why they thought the riots happened, of which more later. When they gave us their reasons, I often then said, “But you come from this area and you didn’t riot. Why not?”. Probably the most common answer I got from young people was something along the lines of, “My mum wouldn't let me”. In that is a huge amount of truth and it tells us a lot about the communities that people come from. When we talked to people who did not riot, they often said something about having something to lose: a job, a college place or the respect of family and friends. Sometimes they just had an adult who helped to steer their path.
We visited 22 communities, mostly those that had been very seriously damaged by riots and, for comparison, some that did not riot. We did research into a small number of them. Many of the issues that came up were very similar from one community to another. They top ones that emerged were: a lack of opportunities for young people; poor parenting; a lack of character or resilience in some people; an inability to prevent reoffending; concerns about brands and materialism; and issues relating to confidence in the police.
The report addresses each of them in turn. I cannot go through them all here, but I hope the Minister has read the report and I will be interested in her views. I would like to highlight just a few of our recommendations. Every child should be able to read and write to a minimum standard by the time they leave primary and then secondary school. That should be obvious, but it is depressingly not the case for too many of our young people. We made recommendations about how to achieve that, but I will be open to any suggestions from the Minister about how schools can be encouraged in every case to make sure they address that problem. When they leave school, children should be prepared not just for work but for life in terms of character or resilience as well as skills. Offenders should not be put back into the community on leaving prison, even after short sentences, without some rehabilitation for the sake the community as well as the individual. Young adults should not be parked on the work programme with no realistic prospect of getting a job. We recommended a youth job guarantee scheme to make sure that those who have been unemployed for one year really have a chance of a job. I will be very interested in the Minister’s view on that.
Steps should be taken to address the fact that trust and confidence in the police are far too low, especially among some minority-ethnic groups. Families facing multiple difficulties should be supported by public services working together, not in isolation. We support the Government’s problem families initiative, but that is targeted at the 120,000 most seriously challenged families that are already in crisis. It is essentially crisis intervention. We estimate that around 500,000 forgotten families are being left to bump along the bottom and are not getting the help that they need. It cannot make sense in human or economic terms to wait for them to reach crisis point before we intervene. The principles of the problem families initiative should be applied to them.
We also addressed some of the short-term issues. Noble Lords will be aware that I and other noble Lords have commented in the House more than once about the very slow speed at which compensation has been arranged for those who were making claims under the Riot (Damages) Act. The Government have committed to look at whether the Act needs updating, and it does need updating, for example, to address vehicle cover, but I hope that they will not try to take the chance to abolish the Act. If the state were to cease to offer indemnity in the case of riots, I fear that some areas of our country would simply become uninsurable, with all the consequences for citizens that that would bring. I hope the Government will tell us today whether they will go to a full public consultation before making any changes to the Act.
Beyond all the detailed recommendations were the messages that I heard around the country that stay with me still. When we visited the areas that had serious disturbances, we asked people why they thought the riots happened. Sometimes answers were specific—the problem was parents or the police—but very often they spoke to a more inchoate sense that we have somehow lost our way as a society, that somehow we do not know what matters any more. We are obsessed with stuff not people. We do not look out for each other the way we used to, we do not know right from wrong and yes, politicians’ expenses and bankers’ bonuses came up pretty much everywhere we went. Asking young people usually produced very particular answers. Theirs were voices of anger and sometimes despair. They said to us: you have trebled university fees; taken away our education maintenance allowances; shut down our youth clubs; there are no jobs; no apprenticeships; no opportunities. What is going to happen to us? What is going to become of us?
The first of those issues is a challenge for all of us in politics. But the second, more than anything, is an immediate challenge for the Government. I fear that we are at risk of losing a whole generation of young people. Will the Minister tell the House what the Government will do to help those young people get the jobs and the opportunities they so badly need? Indeed, if there is an overriding point to government, it is surely to order society so as to enable all its people to flourish, to be all that they possibly could be and all they are meant to be. In the end, that was our top message—that everyone needs a stake in society, both because they deserve it and because I really do not want to be asked to serve on a future riots panel.
My Lords, we owe a great debt to the noble Baroness and her colleagues, who have worked so hard to bring this report to our attention. We must share with her the sadness that, as yet, we do not have an official response to it. I do not need to say more than that.
Yesterday, I was with the family of a young man who, one year ago, was stabbed to death in Tottenham. Just two weeks ago, I was with a young man who escaped being killed on the streets of London on the release of a young man who had spent seven years wrongly accused and imprisoned with all the anxiety that flowed from that. On Sunday, I was with the family of one young man who was in Pentonville prison awaiting sentence for pushing drugs. His best friend, who is playing for Arsenal football team, came to church on his seventeenth birthday driving a BMW.
It is not just those with no education and no family support. I was with a very fine family with four kids. One of them, who had four straight As for his A-levels, was dropping out of university and said to me, “What is the point of building a career? We all know on the street that the ways to get ahead are through crime or drugs or fame or football or music”. He has dedicated himself to music. The breakthrough perhaps will come or perhaps it will not. It is a tough old world out there.
It is a very tough world on the streets of London. The church that I minister fronts on to Islington and backs on to Hackney. It is true that the low expectations and aspirations of people living in the urban jungle have to be combated at every stage. We find scholarships and support through university. We are all the time robbing philanthropists of their money and trying desperately to put packages together. At the same time, I could name a whole pile of things in local authority or voluntary community work with young people in the arts, activities, football, and raising awareness that are no longer happening.
How can we possibly talk about building society from the top downwards? Everything that is happening at the bottom is being severely challenged by goodhearted people who can no longer put in the 60 hours a week for the minimum wage that they were doing. We have to look at this and take corporate responsibility for it. I do not want to address my questions to the Government; I want to address my questions to all of us. Some of us are working in the inner city and have been for decades. I have never known it quite as devoid of hope as it is now. Last August, it was appropriate to point the finger at those who did bad things and it is right that we should expect them to be punished. However, I do not think that the analysis ends there or that the responsibility ends there either.
My Lords, this is a very important debate, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, for bringing it forward. When the Government made their Statement on 11 August last year, I and many others were there. I congratulated the Government on their response, or their projected response, for small businesses and business community. I want to speak about the business community. I also asked the Government to ensure that the response measures they outlined, which sounded very good, would be implemented speedily with the minimum red tape. I was assured that that would be the case. However, since then, on many occasions in this House and elsewhere we have had to raise the inadequate response that has been given to the business community. In particular, I have come across many examples of shops that have struggled to survived, and some that have not survived, through lack of support. A number of trade associations have pitched in to provide tangible help to said small shops, but many other shops have been forced to look elsewhere to get help, and particularly to get money from banks, which is not easy at present and can be quite punitive. Those shops that have managed to work their way through have learnt the hard way that they have to fend for themselves. I am sure that the Minister will give me other good examples, but the trade associations have played their part. I quote from just one group of shops, which said:
“The Riot (Damages) Act should have achieved the same thing”—
that we had from the trade associations—
“but proved to be overly bureaucratic, immensely slow and in some parts of the country failed to provide any compensation at all”.
That is very disappointing in view of the fact that this issue was highlighted by me and others at the time. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, said, the Act needs looking at again. Also, I hope that when Ministers make these statements and say that yes, they will get behind businesses and that it is awful what has happened to them, they will ensure that a Minister is appointed to monitor the situation and not just let it drift along. I hope that civil servants are put in charge of ensuring that the words of the Minister are actually implemented and are not just warm words said easily at the time.
My Lords, I am most grateful for this opportunity to raise something that was, of course, short term and was asking for quick answers. This is a matter of complex issues in our society which require sustainable results and responses. I am very grateful for the point of view expressed by my noble friend Lord Griffiths that this is the responsibility of all of us.
I would like to point out the issues to do with justice and the opportunity to engage with restorative justice in our local communities. Then I would like to go on to develop a couple of more general themes, which are important in connecting the complexities of our society and a sustainable response. As we heard in the Queen’s Speech, we are aiming for economic growth, which is very laudable. We know that that means offering people jobs of some kind. At the same time, we want sustainable and flourishing communities. I hope that we can take an opportunity to be statespersonlike and see the whole picture in trying to avoid riots in future but also lifting up those who cannot participate in our society.
Two things occur to us in Birmingham. First, as is well established in a wonderful analysis—and there have been many—called Mad Mobs and Englishmen?, by two scholars, the main frustration is the sense that people do not have a legitimate engagement in society. They instinctively feel that it is unfair, and that is really what was behind last summer. Secondly, the role of faiths and people with beliefs is recorded as being most significant in what happened during the days and in putting things back together quickly. I hope that the Government will notice that as well in their response. For fairness, there should be access to work. For recognition of the contribution of faiths, there should be support for community projects. We have already heard how difficult it is for people to sustain local involvement when cuts are destroying long-term work.
So in response to the report, please notice the children and parents section. We want to see troubled families developed, but notice the good work that is going on in communities with families with complex needs. We need to keep going with that programme in addition to the point made by the noble Baroness about the wider community. On personal resilience, where is the role of not just values but virtues? Some of these the underlying moral and behavioural attitudes are mentioned in the report. Human beings flourish when they exercise discipline, application and deferred gratification. There I must end to give everyone their time. I commend this report and trust that it will be taken in a connecting-up way and that local enterprise partnerships in particular will have it on their desks by Monday morning.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Sherlock for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important report and congratulate her and the other panel members on producing a significant piece of work. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the recommendations even in a climate of austerity and recession.
Other noble Lords have already spoken of the need to create jobs and hope for young people, and I will speak on the importance of rehabilitation. I was shocked to see that rioters brought before the courts had on average 11 previous convictions, so the question of rehabilitation needs to be urgently addressed. The report recommends that youth offending teams adopt triage approaches whereby public services come together to undertake a thorough assessment of a first-time offender’s behaviour and the reasons that lie behind it.
Though prison provides punishment, I am concerned that the level of reconviction rates for young adults discharged from custody are higher than for those given community sentences and strongly support the panel’s recommendation that some of the resources currently spent on custody could be redirected into community sentencing. Short prison sentences give little opportunity for interventions that could encourage rehabilitation, such as help with employment and drug and alcohol addiction. The panel’s call for probation trusts to develop intensive alternatives to custody schemes for young adults should be taken up. Evidence given to the panel showed that prison for young adults can be disruptive to housing status, employment and personal relationships making them more vulnerable to reoffending by losing their tentative stake in society.
However, where young offenders are imprisoned they should not be released back into the community without what the panel describes as “wraparound” support packages of help with finding housing, employment and health advice. The recommendation that probation, prisons and voluntary and community sector partners work together with the aim of ensuring that every young adult is offered a mentor to support them on release must also be worth exploring.
After the Riots also examined the way young adults move between the two systems of youth and adult justice. For 18 year-olds, the sudden difference between treatment by the Youth Justice Board and with adult offender status can have a negative impact. Both young offenders and probation teams questioned by the panel thought that transitions,
“could and should be handled better”.
Will the Government consider putting 18 to 21 year- olds under the Youth Justice Board jurisdiction rather than the instant transfer at 18? The report has found that young adults are a distinct group with a different set of needs from older adult offenders. The offender assessment system operated by probation officers to check the likelihood of reoffending found that the most common needs of offenders aged 18 to 20 are education, training and employment. The Government should act on the recommendations in this report to help make our communities safer.
My Lords, the first thing that I want to do in the few minutes I have is to place on record my thanks to my noble friend Lady Sherlock for securing this debate and to thank her and her fellow members of the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel under the chairmanship of Mr Darra Singh for its excellent report into the disturbances between 6 and 10 August 2011 across towns and cities in England.
Like all noble Lords, I was shocked at what I saw unfolding across England during those few days in August. I remember sitting at home with my wife Alicia, who said, “Look that is Lewisham on the television”. I was amazed to see that there were problems only a few streets away from where we lived. We all have our memories of what happened that night. We can remember watching in horror the old Co-op store in Tottenham going up in flames or the Reeves furniture store being completely destroyed, having served the local community in Croydon for generations.
I am a Londoner and I love this city very much. It is one of the truly great cities on the planet. I was born in Lambeth, grew up in Southwark and now live in Lewisham. As a Londoner, I want to say how disappointed I was with the lamentable performance of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, who took days to return home from holiday, and contrast that with the activity of local communities who came out the following morning and got to work cleaning up their high streets, shopping arcades and communities. In the face of these terrible activities, criminality and the worst of behaviours we also saw communities and people coming together, displaying the best of what people and communities can do.
I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham may not be able to respond straight away and I would be happy to receive a letter from her, but I have a question on the issue of the victims and businesses affected and the lack of swift action to get compensation. The Government need to look at the role of the insurance companies in this respect. The report highlights that small businesses and individuals have experienced unacceptable delays and difficulties in getting matters resolved. In particular, small businesses may be less resilient to delays in this respect and may fold altogether.
The Riot (Damages) Act of 1886, while fit for purpose in principle, would benefit from urgent updating. That is something that the Government could do in this particularly light Session of Parliament with support from across this House and the other place. Will the noble Baroness tell the Grand Committee how many claims she believes have been settled to date? Does she think that that is acceptable? When have the Government sat down with the insurance industry since the riots to address these concerns? When does she expect the review of the Act to have been completed? What are the chances of getting what should be a fairly uncontroversial review onto the statue book? The Government have a duty to respond to these failings. If they do not do so they are letting the country down badly.
My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to the noble Baroness for calling this timely debate and for her report. I will concentrate on success at school. I hope that the Minister will take back these concerns to the Department for Education.
The report highlights concerns at school failure and the consequences for young people. Academics highlight that schools make up only about 10% to 20% of the difference in terms of educational outcomes for children. Children spend about 9% of their time in school, so by far the most important factor is what happens at home. Sadly, that is less susceptible to intervention than school. Good quality early years care has also been shown to be an important factor in educational success.
Whether a parent succeeded at school is the strongest indicator of whether his child will succeed there. One important means therefore of improving literacy in our children may be to ensure access to adult education for their parents. In the past, many primary schools could offer parent classes in literacy and maths. I encourage Her Majesty's Government to promote such practice again. I know that there is good work in this area.
The parents most likely to benefit from such an approach trust their local schools and will turn to them before adult education colleges. With a child of their own, they may have gained motivation that was lacking before. Starting school is the single biggest trigger for parents to do something about their own literacy and lack of skills. I suggest to the Government an agency dedicated to promoting adult education in schools might be a significant help in improving educational outcomes and reducing adult unemployment. I pay tribute to the admirable contribution in this area of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
I would be grateful to hear from a charity prepared to champion this particular cause. What is being done to encourage adult education based in schools? I would be grateful if the Minister could write to me with information on the availability of adult education in primary and secondary schools and early years settings. I should be grateful for information on the number of schools offering adult education and research undertaken on the effect on child outcomes of linking adult education to schools.
Finally, I want to say a brief word about transition from custody for young people, which the noble Baroness, Lady Healy, mentioned. There is a suggestion that some strong central attention such as the Youth Justice Board has been able to give to children now needs to be given to 18 to 21 year-olds. What good practice shown by the Youth Justice Board does the Minister think might be adopted for this age group? If the Youth Justice Board were prepared to consider it, could its remit be extended to 21 year-olds? Here I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Healy. I look forward to the Minister's response.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the contribution of my noble friend Lady Sherlock to the work of the panel. Its final report challenges us to give everyone a stake in society if we are to avoid future riots. Is it surprising that so many of those involved in the riots feel that they do not have a stake in society when,
“over half the respondents to the Panel’s Neighbourhood Survey believe there is a growing gap between rich and poor in their local area”,
and we know that those brought before the courts came disproportionately from our most deprived neighbourhoods? Among the rioters surveyed in the separate Reading the Riots study, poverty emerged as the single most important perceived cause. It was mentioned by 86% as important or very important, with inequality mentioned by 70%. The study revealed a pervasive sense of injustice.
Of course, there is no deterministic link between poverty and rioting, and the panel points to the importance of good parenting and the development of character and resilience as key preventive factors. However, research illuminates the ways in which the stress associated with poverty and the survival strategies adopted by parents to cope can undermine their best efforts to be good parents.
Moreover, rampant advertising of brands often aimed at children and young people, which was highlighted by the report, makes poverty and inequality that much harder to bear, and parenting in poverty that much more difficult. When young people living in poverty can be bullied because they do not have the right trainers, it is perhaps understandable, even if not justifiable, if they grab them when they can in what the report describes as,
“opportunistic looting … very much targeted at brands”.
I therefore believe that in addition to the report’s recommendations, we need a coherent anti-poverty and inequality strategy, not to be confused with a social mobility strategy. We need to go further than the report does in its suggestion with regard to the regulation of marketing directed at children and young people.
More than four-fifths of those interviewed in the Reading the Riots study believe that the riots will happen again. Unfortunately, with spending cuts hitting deprived individuals and communities disproportionately, according to a Joseph Rowntree Foundation Study; with youth services taking a significant hit in many areas; and with family poverty forecast to rise, I fear that they could be right. Punishing rioters with loss of housing or benefits is not the answer. It would only reduce further their stake in society. We urgently need a more constructive response.
My Lords, I was in Northumberland when last summer’s riots started in the London Borough of Haringey, where I live; and it was with incredulity that I heard that the main street of my home town of Enfield, where I grew up and went to school, had turned into a near-war zone. As so many commentators and politicians said at the time, much of the rioting, looting and arson attacks were no more than mindless criminality and delinquency. There was a complete breakdown in social order, in a sense of personal responsibility, and in the mutual bonds of trust and reciprocity on which communities are built. Of course, there are no excuses for this sort of behaviour but that does not mean that we should not look long and hard at some of the underlying factors that may explain what happened.
I said at the time that it was important to embark on a thoughtful and thorough public policy response to the riots, and recognise that simplistic solutions to deep-seated social problems do not exist. That is what this excellent report has done, and I pay tribute to everyone involved in it, particularly the outstanding work of the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock. I also found the reports produced by NatCen and the LSE/Guardian insightful. The reports made it clear that we are looking at deep-seated problems in our society—a complicated mix of failure within families, the community, the economy and politics. Poverty and deprivation clearly have a role to play but are by no means the whole story. Just look at the background of people going through the courts in such large numbers. While some were clearly from deprived backgrounds, others had good jobs and came from stable families. While some were young, many were from older age groups. Reactions of those being charged and sentenced also varied wildly. Some were quite unrepentant while others were guilt stricken. Some parents were appalled at the behaviour of their children, while others were unprepared to accept any responsibility or were absent altogether.
There is so much that I should like to say about the contents of the report but I do not have time. However, I shall pick out a couple of key themes that are important to me relating to the values that we espouse as a society—so much of it consumption-led and dominated by self interest. The size of the gap between rich and poor does matter and has a real impact on social cohesion. This is about how everyone must feel they have a stake in society. Turning to the good, let us not forget those young people who came out on the streets the next day to help shopkeepers and others affected to clear up and rebuild their lives. I strongly support the recommendation to honour the riot heroes, and I would like more to be done on that. I am fascinated by the focus on resilience and character—an issue that came out strongly in a recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, in which I was involved. It found that resilience and character are central to this issue, and I hope that we can work jointly as we further develop our understanding in this area.
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Sherlock for introducing this debate so coherently and for her work on this report.
I want to talk about stress and frustration with systems, which may lead to anger, disillusionment and reaction. We see it in schools and on the streets of some countries today. It is interesting that in the riots most of those involved were of job-seeking age. Punishment may well be an obvious reaction to disturbances, but causes of bad behaviour may need to be explored and punishment made appropriate—for example, restorative justice or community sentencing, as referred to earlier. I am amazed that those two things are not applied more consistently.
I want to reflect on a series of meetings held during the previous parliamentary Session by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which I have the honour of chairing. The meetings were on the impact of recession on young people. The report on those meetings will be launched in June, but I well remember some of the chilling messages that came across from those working with children, from research, and from children themselves. It is clear from our meetings that the recession was causing cuts to services and stress in families. Children themselves spoke of stress in relation to social class, parental employment and changing household income. Any Government seeking to address the needs of young people must address those key issues and crisis points.
Early intervention is still the key to well-being, academic and social success, and the social mobility and intervention mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler. Frank Field’s report on child poverty and life chances recommended indicators at age three and five to monitor development indicators. Will we do that? Graham Allen’s report suggested that unless government intervened early, the result will be cycles of poor outcomes. He suggested that the cost of 150 babies having positive early intervention may be the same as the cost of keeping three boys in a secure unit for a year, two of whom will go on to reoffend.
Tim Loughton, a very engaged Minister for Children, talked at one meeting about reforms to child protection and early intervention. I know that he has visited several interesting and effective services—for example, the multiagency safeguarding hub in Haringey. There are other examples of good practice in the youth service, children’s centres and schools. I hope that we work on that good practice and share it.
Intervention has to be seamless and co-ordinated throughout a child’s life and family experiences. It is not so much intervention but what a healthy society provides consistently for its people. It involves health services, education, welfare and, in particular, vulnerable children. I saw little evidence in recent Bills in your Lordships’ House of a particular sympathy for struggling families. I am suggesting that frustration is contagious and damaging. The more that inequality in society is seen to exist, the more hardship people will feel and the more difficult it will be to prevent stress, anger and frustration.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, and her colleagues on the After the Riots report for a thorough piece of work. I agree with previous speakers that this issue is complex and is the responsibility of us all.
There are two aspects missing from this debate regarding growth—the economy and society. Even today, the CBI came out with its proposals: there are 500 major infrastructure projects in the pipeline worth £250 billion, and the Government are spending less than 15% on that—less than £40 billion. At a time of record low borrowing, something needs to be done there. Secondly, on growth and social capital, what we are seeing is the destruction of social capital, with cuts in the finances of voluntary sector organisations. I say to my colleagues that the glue that has held these communities together is now losing its adhesiveness. That should be the twin message.
We have seen an absence of hope from the Government—no narrative or vision other than austerity. One has to give hope to people if we are all going to have a future. I warn the Government that £33 billion of the £100 billion of savings and cuts are coming in 2014-15. They are still to come, so they have to be very careful and, as they say in Scotland, ca’ canny, on this particular issue. I would suggest to the Government a narrative on child poverty. The Labour Government of 1998 adopted a child poverty target of elimination of child poverty by 2020. That means 1 million fewer children are under the poverty line in Britain today, but the Government have an absence of referring to the issue of child poverty. When I was chairman of the Treasury Select Committee in the other place, an all-party committee, we were very heavy on the Government regarding that target. This Government should at least talk about child poverty.
From working in communities and schools, I know that it is not a lack or a poverty of ambition on the part of children lying below the poverty line. It is a poverty of opportunity that they have had, which is why we need to increase the social capital. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently said that child poverty alone was costing the UK economy £25 billion per annum, so there are great social and economic costs. There is merit in social capital. I refer to a speech that President Obama made in April to the Associated Press Luncheon, when he said:
“I have never been somebody who believes that government can or should try to solve every problem. Some of you know my first job in Chicago was working with a group of Catholic churches that often did more good for the people in their communities than any government program could”.
If anything is an articulation for building up social capital, it is that particular comment. It has been absent from the Government’s agenda to date, and I want that along with others on the agenda very forcefully.
My Lords, I also congratulate my noble friend on opening the debate with clarity, commitment and passion. In five days in August, 5,000 crimes were committed, 50,000 people rioted and five people lost their lives. Many more lost their businesses or homes. We live in challenging times, with high youth unemployment, lack of opportunities for youngsters and perceptions of poor parenting. Then there is our inability to prevent re-offending; high brand awareness; and declining confidence in policing.
A parallel report, commissioned by Enfield Council, recommended that the police ensure that their approach to young adults is proportionate, and that the police should be more representative of the local community. All the other recommendations for Enfield Council itself related to young people. We all have a duty to help create a climate of hope, and to ensure that those who are not resilient enough to cope with today’s challenges are supported, not further marginalised and excluded. We must tackle the deep-seated problems that contributed to the riots. Our questions today are about the Government’s response, or non-response, to the report of the riots panel.
The riots were not carried out by children, nor by gang members, nor were they race riots. They were largely the actions of young adults; the overwhelming majority of those were male and with a previous conviction. Almost half of the under 18 year-olds charged lived in poverty; as we have heard, 70% in the most deprived postcode areas. The report suggests there are half a million forgotten families, not quite hitting the threshold required to get the help they need, because no one member quite reaches that threshold, but, as a whole, the family is dysfunctional. They experience problems not as individuals, but as families. That is where intervention is needed, to identify children with actual or potential needs.
The panel recommended extending the family nurse partnership programme to all teenage mothers. Have the Government agreed to this? What discussions have been held with social services about contacting absent fathers? What progress has been made in involving businesses in local schools and in creating work experience placements? What discussions are being held with the ASA and manufacturers to reduce advertising aimed at the young? Given that one in three think that the police are corrupt, what discussions has the Home Office had with police to engage with communities about the impact of such perceptions on their effectiveness? Given that police numbers were not sufficient then, how do the Government assess a further reduction of 16,000? And when are the Government going to respond to this report?
We need to look forward in how we respond to this. I do not believe that society is broken, but we must all rise to the challenge of providing greater inclusion, improving community solidarity and above all creating a fairer share of what this country has to offer.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, for introducing this debate on a report on which she had a great deal of influence, and for introducing it to us in a way that makes me understand why she was involved. It is clear that this was an extremely difficult report to write and a great deal of care has been put into it. I thank her for what she has done and for making sure that we had an opportunity to debate it today.
The interest in the debate was enormous. When I saw 25 speakers and only an hour for the debate I wondered how many times in the House of Lords we have had a speech of 30 seconds, which is what it would have amounted to. Obviously, others felt the same and did not think that their words would have quite the same effect as if they had been able to speak for longer. As a result, I congratulate everybody because we have been able to reduce this and not have a re-statement of all the facts. We have covered a wide variety of topics in the report. The report was beautifully produced and well written, which is always a huge help, because it means that people pay attention to it.
None of us will ever forget the scenes that came before us last summer. For five days, we witnessed wilful destruction and criminality on a large scale. We can only imagine the fear and distress felt by those who were affected and who were watching what was going on. There was shock that something like this could happen in our society. What was going on had a mind-boggling and terrible effect. The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, graphically described the effect on local people.
There were 15,000 rioters, 4,000 arrests, 5,000 crimes and £500 million loss to the economy. Those figures cannot sum up the devastation of seeing your community turned upside down and your business lying wrecked and in flames. We must not forget, as we have been reminded today, that five people lost their lives.
As regards recovery, the first priority was to get communities back on their feet as quickly as possible. Some things will always take much longer than others. The right reverend Prelate and other speakers referred to one of the most amazing outcomes of this, which was the broom brigade. People arrived spontaneously to clear up the mess and try to put their community back into some kind of order, and they did it without prompting. The word for the riots may have gone round quickly, but word also went round very quickly that voluntary help to sort this out would be appreciated. That message went round and was responded to very quickly. I shall never forget the pictures on television of people standing with their brooms and rubber gloves getting down to it.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham also drew attention to the work carried out by the faith organisations and I agree that faith organisations and other voluntary organisations were involved too. Suffice to say that our appreciation to them is very marked for what they did.
People have been slightly dismissive about the response that came from government. Local authorities played an enormously important part in leading recovery in their areas. They helped to bring people together, provided them with vision and reassurance and galvanised efforts across agencies and the community, doing so with great speed. Indeed, some local authorities provided immediate funding from their own resources or facilitated access to other funding.
The Government, including my department, also responded very quickly. There was no big delay in responding to this situation. Councils have said that without recovery funding from the Government, which was made available almost immediately, many businesses other than those affected by the riots would also have shut. Financial support was made available to keep them going. Under that recovery scheme, nearly £3 million has been claimed by 29 local authorities. There was also the £7.4 million high street support scheme, which has helped 25 councils to reduce business rates, fund emergency repairs and encourage customers to go back to their local shops.
The Government also provided direct support to help communities get back on their feet. For example, my department provided £35,000 to a specific local authority to enable caseworkers to provide support to affected families for six months. Therefore, there has been a response all round to this almost unprecedented event, not only from volunteers and local residents but from the Government. There was no blueprint for response to this event. Having seen that, we must ensure that it does not happen again.
The six themes around which the panel’s report is structured focus on some of the Government’s priorities, some of which we have already made significant progress on. Both the panel and the Government share an ambition to give power back to communities, reform and join up public services and extend opportunities for young people. A number of contributors have spoken of the importance of good parenting. The importance of good parenting was brought out strongly in the panel’s report. As noble Lords will know, this is being addressed through the Government’s trialling of universal parenting classes, giving access to high-quality parenting classes to mothers and fathers of young children. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that we should encourage parent involvement as good parenting is what it is all about. One wants to concentrate on addressing the absence of good parenting. The noble Earl referred to elements of the troubled families programme. That programme will support some of the report’s recommendations and offer 120,000 troubled families immediate support by getting parents into work. It will also start to address the lack of education described by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock.
The report raises the lack of hopes and aspirations for young people facing unemployment. We have recently introduced the youth contract, which will provide additional support worth almost £1 billion to young unemployed people over the next three years. The report highlights the fact that many of the rioters had previous convictions, as a number of noble Lords mentioned. We are confident that payment by results for offender rehabilitation will encourage providers to tailor services to help offenders turn their lives around.
If I have time, I wish to respond to points made by noble Lords. I shall do so with a broad sweep as I am not sure whether I shall run out of time. I understand that the noble Baroness and other noble Lords are keen for the Government to respond formally to the report. As she will know, there are more than 60 recommendations which go across government. Every single department is affected by the report and needs to consider what its response will be. There will be a response; that is vital. I am not in a position today to give any date for that but I can give the reassurance that this has been taken extremely seriously. Any response needs to underline that and needs to demonstrate that it has taken the recommendations clearly into account. So although I cannot give a date today, I can give an assurance that the response will surely come.
I will try to pick up some of the other points that were made. I hope that noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, will forgive me if I cover the same ground again. There is an intention to look at the Riot (Damages) Act. Delays have been caused by the fact that this is a very old Act of Parliament and has to be looked at very carefully. That is a matter for the Home Office, as is the public consultation. Concerning youth job offers, we have already got a number of programmes for youth including apprenticeships and encouragement to go to work.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham welcomed the faith organisations. The vast majority of young people in this country are responsible, hard-working, law-abiding and care about their communities. Therefore, one has to be careful not to tar a whole generation with the same brush. Having said that, we have to understand that there are always going to be problems and that needs to be part of the response.
Regarding the Riot (Damages) Act, I would like to make it clear that the vast majority of people affected have received compensation—92% of businesses from insurance, while 93% of valid uninsured claims are being dealt with. The noble Baroness, Lady Healey, referred to the revolving door situation. The Government are looking at this revolving door and the short sentences that often lead to reoffending. The Government, in line with the public and the panel, believe that sentences should have a very clear element of punishment and that rehabilitation should be incorporated into those sentences. People should not be allowed to leave prison with nowhere to go, no support and nothing to help them care for the future.
I am out of time. There were a number of other very important points and I am sorry if I have not picked them up. I will pick them up and ensure that everybody gets a response to the points they made and that that response is in the Library. Again, I thank all noble Lords very much indeed, especially the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, for introducing this debate.
Committee adjourned at 6.18 pm.