More than 80 per cent of adults believe that young people would be less likely to commit crimes if their social problems were tackled early, a survey published today by Community Care reveals, writes Maria Ahmed.
The NOP survey of 1,904 members of the public showed that older people had the most tolerant view, with 70 per cent of people aged over-65 “strongly agreeing,” with tackling young people’s social problems early compared to just over half of 15-24-year-olds.
Another survey of 603 youth workers by Community Care also published today reveals that eight out of 10 professionals believe that political leaders’ comments around youth crime have instilled an unnecessary fear of young people in the general public.
Two-thirds of these professionals say that most deaths of young people in custody could be prevented if there was sufficient interest, and nine out of 10 people believe the political debate is too focused on punishing young offenders rather than tackling the underlying causes of their behaviour.
Eight out of 10 professionals say that politicians were ill-informed about the reality of youth crime, while nearly half believe that the majority of crimes committed by young people are trivial and part of growing up.
The surveys are published today alongside a new report on youth justice to mark the launch of Community Care’s Election 2005 campaign which is designed to raise the issue of social care during the coming general election.
The report by youth crime expert John Pitts shows how New Labour’s policies have been designed to secure the loyalties of former Conservative voters to the neglect of young people’s social needs.
It highlights key failings in the government’s track record including longer sentences for young people, “record” levels of self-harm in custody, and growing numbers of children placed in institutions despite being seen as “too vulnerable” for custody.
The findings show how the issue of youth justice has been left out of ‘Every Child Matters’, the recent debate on the future of children’s services, and confined instead to Home Office policies.
Pitts says: “The government’s inordinate emphasis upon stemming the criminality of young offenders has tended to eclipse the question of their social needs.”
Pitts’ report calls for a wider debate on youth justice and youth crime and a change in political culture.
Community Care’s new campaign Election 2005: Putting Social Care in the Picture, is being launched today in London with a parliamentary briefing on youth crime.
It marks the start of a series of reports and parliamentary briefings which will probe how party policies on key election issues often miss the vital role of social care and social work.
For all the details of the campaign go to www.communitycare.co.uk/election
Visit http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-1508037,00.html for a letter from Community Care’s editor about our campaign.