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Where Do We Go From Here?

August 17, 2011

Neither I, nor indeed Mr P, are members of the “Hang ‘Em and Flog ‘Em” brigade (well, Mr P kinda is, but not in that way, and he feels that everyone is entitled to a hobby) anyway…

The obvious question, following last week’s incidents, is ‘what happens next?’ It’s pretty easy to trot out the clichés – long gaol sentences, shooting, flagellation, national service, eviction etc. The trouble is, those only address the symptoms, not the root causes.

I can well believe that those who took part in the trouble may (the few simply ‘caught in the moment’ aside) be either simply bored or feel a great isolation from the rest of society. I know myself how easy it is, when really broke and unemployed, to hate the world – and to reject all attempts others make to pull you back into it. If you remove the stability I had that prevents you falling further, the damage may well be irreparable to the individual as well as the community they live in.

Many point to the fact only electrical and sportswear stores were looted, and that Waterstones was left alone. My theory is that the scumbag looters may have realised Amazon was cheaper, but anyway…

The answer has to be the very clearly seen provision of a structure, a simple and obvious ladder visible and graspable by all.

The previous government were obsessed with ‘Key Stage’ testing in schools, measuring what children could do so that the press and opposition could savage the results. In my day we were tested in school, annually – even termly – but those results were kept between schools and parents. If a year did badly, parents knew why (be it teachers leaving or simply an over abundance of sawdust in the gene pool that year), and there were other measures by which the community knew if the school was good or not – pupil behaviour and appearance on the streets, local newspaper reports of good work and sports results and simple local gossip about reputation.

What there also was, was the clear ladder I was talking about. It was known that children went to a ‘good’ primary, on to a ‘good’ secondary and then to a ‘decent job’ or perhaps college and university. All this came about because there was ‘faith in the system’ that was reinforced by that local reputation gossip, and not undermined by media talk and a bunch of easily cooked statistics.

That is probably the key: stop producing quantitative data and start allowing individual communities to ‘exist’ and build themselves. Do give them the central structure that says good school leads to good training that leads to decent existence.

Do also give them the means to shape these things. My suggestion is not actual ‘national service’ – the thought of drug dealers being trained to shoot straight isn’t appealing – but to make certain that being a “NEET” (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and existing (and believe me, it isn’t living) on benefits is no longer an option at 16 or 18.

End benefits for those under 21, and use the money instead for a 2 or 4 year (depending if you join at 16 or 18) compulsory “NYS” system. A voluntary 6 week system won’t sort anything, I feel. Those not in college or full time work (and achieving and regularly attending both) are required to take part in these residential (optionally home based if home is a sound one) schemes, partly staffed by armed services troops who have been decommissioned either through retirement or injury, and partly by those craftsmen redundant as British industry closed.

Six weeks of assessment and basic social functioning skills, followed by multiple choices of practical courses – everything from bricklaying to nursery nursing (for those single mothers attending, plus anyone else wishing to take part), commerce and even military skills for those who want them. Catch up classes in numeracy and literacy, of course, as a daily event, go without saying.

A route out of a ‘broken’ environment, into a place created by people who have skills and discipline to pass on, a totally clean slate for anybody without the wish or current ability to do what the middle and upper classes have done for years – go off somewhere to learn about life and themselves (university or travel) and return a useful member of the community.

Has to be cheaper than re-building half the nation’s shopping centres, doesn’t it?

  1. August 23, 2011 11:48 am

    Hi there, good post.

    Tricky subject, of course they do deserve punishment. The problem is that so many of the individuals are first time offenders and its well documented that a stint in prison graduates young offenders to the upper league of crime. So to cut a long story short if were harsh on all of them were creating the legacy of a generation with criminal records, so that will never try and contribute to society again.

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      August 23, 2011 12:00 pm

      Exactly. Training over prison any day.

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