Socialist Worker

Time to take a new direction

Issue No. 2066

The media and politicians demand harsher laws to deal with “youth crime”. But the only way to deal with the problem is to take a take a radically different direction:


Crime

Young working class people are increasingly demonised and criminalised under New Labour. They face harassment from police and are the targets of Asbos and dispersal orders.

Despite every serious report into young people and crime recommending alternatives to custody, Britain locks up more young people than any other country in western Europe.

Young people with problems need support, not scapegoating.

The criminal age of responsibility in England and Wales is currently ten years old, one of the lowest in Europe.

There needs to be a shift away from seeing young people as criminals and nuisances. The age of responsibility should be raised, Asbos should be abolished and children should not be locked up.


Education

The education system is failing our children. The culture in schools is one that prioritises testing children from the age of five. Thousands are branded “failures” from an early age.

Exams put children under huge stress. The education system prefers to exclude young people rather than deal with the problems they face.

We need to campaign for an end to the testing culture and to fight for an education system that, instead of excluding people, allows all children to achieve their potential.


Housing

One in seven children in Britain will grow up homeless or living in inadequate housing, according to the Shelter charity. Some 1.6 million children are living in houses that are temporary, crowded or unfit.

Living in bad housing affects other aspects of young people’s lives. Children living in poor housing are twice as likely to leave schools with no GCSEs. Over 57,000 children living in poor housing are excluded from school each year.

There is an urgent need to build council housing on a mass scale to tackle this crisis.


Racism

Much of the media and many politicians try to blame bad parenting or lack of “role models” for the problems that young black people face.

But the real problem is institutional racism that black people face in education, employment and the criminal justice system.

We need an end to racist policies of stop and search that target black people and Muslims in the “war on terror”.


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