Behind the headlines

Beggars and rowdy teenagers are the main target of a new Home
Office white paper, Respect and Responsibility. The use of
fixed penalty notices, in which the police and other authorised
individuals can issue fines on the spot, is set to be extended to
16 and 17 year olds who commit disorder offences and to parents who
ignore truancy. There are also measures to withdraw housing benefit
from antisocial tenants, extend the use of intensive fostering
schemes, parenting orders and parenting contracts, and make begging
a recordable offence.

The antisocial behaviour white paper appears to be a response to
people’s perceptions of crime levels in their neighbourhoods. Crime
has dropped 27 per cent since 1997 but, home secretary David
Blunkett says, “more than one in three consider that antisocial
behaviour is still affecting their quality of life.” The white
paper emphasises “early identification” of children at risk of
committing antisocial behaviour. Blunkett promised “support and
help for those who are prepared to accept it”, but “clear, speedy
and effective enforcement when they are not.”

Karen Squillino, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
“This white paper looks like yet another attempt to put a
great big sticking plaster over the massive social difficulties
this country faces. When is the government really going to look at
the issues of ‘respect and responsibility’? The rhetorical approach
makes all the right noises but the policies remain rooted in the
blame culture that has long been dominant.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“Any government that implements antisocial policies
leading to ever more under-resourced communities of deprivation
creates the basis for antisocial behaviour. Huge inputs of
resources to inspire and improve people’s lives are required – not
punishing the weakest sections of the community. B is for bully,
Blunkett and Blair.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“If you can get beyond the rhetoric about ‘stamping out’
antisocial behaviour, there is much in the white paper that is
supportive of families and children. The intensive fostering
proposals are not as new as they may seem; many more parents
request care away from home for their adolescent children than
receive it, due both to an assessment that it would not be in the
child’s interests and a lack of resources. What is not clear is
whether the new powers will be compliant with the welfare principle
of the Children Act 1989 or undermine it. This is the critical
issue about which we must seek clarification from the

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth
“As I write, Leicester students are demonstrating against
war in Iraq. Police are out in ridiculous numbers. Why? Are we
frightened of young people’s participation in legitimate dissent?
Are we afraid when they make a powerful demonstration of
citizenship? Are they seen as troublemakers who should be removed
from streets and public spaces? The National Youth Agency is not
happy about the white paper because it shows little respect and
responsibility for young people in tackling the causes of social

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social care,
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
“We must not slip back into tackling crime without
tackling the causes of crime. Before we can penalise and punish
parents for their children’s anti-social behaviour, we must be sure
we have done everything possible to tackle the root causes of
truancy and loutish antics. Recent statistics show that there has
not been as much progress as we would all want with the targets to
lift children (and therefore their families) out of poverty. One
should not be done without the other.”

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