A group of youth workers have launched an open letter to home secretary David Blunkett calling for an alternative to Asbos.
“We want to get young people, lawyers, charities and trade unions, as well as youth workers, involved in the campaign against Asbos,” says Beccy Palmer, one of the youth workers involved in the initiative.
The open letter was unveiled at a 50-strong workshop on young people and crime held at the European Social Forum in London in October.
Now there are plans to kick-start the campaign with major launch meetings in London and Manchester in the new year. Beccy says everyone who wants an alternative to Asbos should get involved.
She describes how she spoke from the floor to a huge Youth Justice Board convention in November, where Blunkett, children’s minister Margaret Hodge and prisons minister Paul Goggins were guest speakers.
“I picked Margaret Hodge up on taking the word ‘rights’ out of the Children Bill,” she says.
“I got a big round of applause and people came up to me afterwards - professionals at the sharp end, people who work with the most at-risk young people.
“Young people’s rights are being denied - and it gets more serious the further down the criminal justice road you go. You’re completely denied rights under Asbos.”
At a session on custody, even magistrates were asking for an alternative to Asbos, Beccy adds. “It shows how wide the frustration is with the government’s lack of any real, funded solution to the problems.”
And Beccy stresses that the problems in many local communities are very real: “I’m not trying to minimise the effect of this on other people - I’ve been a victim of crime myself. But we do need real solutions.
“There are young people who do harass people in some local communities where I work. But why? There are issues about depression and how that affects people.
“And there are school exclusions. There’s a direct correlation between exclusions and crime - you don’t have to be a genius to see that.
“We need to do something about the lives young people are leading at the moment. The lack of confidence and opportunities is creating a huge gap in young people’s lives. But Asbos clearly aren’t the solution - the right kind of support is needed.”