Riots panel calls for more support for communities
A major study into last summer’s riots has found local services are not creating enough opportunities for individuals to make a difference in their communities.
Evidence gathered by the Independent Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, headed by former housing boss Darra Singh, and published today shows that there is a ‘disconnect’ between individuals and families within communities.
The panel’s final report, entitled After the riots, has already been presented to prime minister David Cameron, deputy prime minster Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party.
In it the panel calls for wide-ranging reforms to prevent future disorder and makes several recommendations around creating community engagement, tackling worklessness and helping the ‘troubled families’, all of which were highlighted in the Riot Report: how housing providers are building stronger communities, published by Inside Housing, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation in February.
Many of the recommendations made by the Independent Riots, Communities and Victims Panel’s report today are based on the results of a survey it commissioned, conducted by research organisation IPSOS MORI in six neighbourhoods – four in riot-hit areas and two in areas with similar levels of deprivation but were not affected by outbreaks of violence last August.
Results of this survey showed that only a third of respondents felt public services listen to them or involve them in decision making. In response to this, the panel has called on the Communities and Local Government department to develop ‘better neighbourhood level engagement and communication capabilities’ in local areas.
Housing associations, local authorities and schools are cited in the report as being able to ‘create and publicise wide ranging, high quality neighbourhood opportunities that will interest different individuals and groups’.
‘The riots highlighted how far behind many public services are around the use of widely used modern methods of communication, such as social media,’ it states.
The panel’s interim report, published in November, examined the reasons why 15,000 people rioted and looted. Today’s final report builds on these and sets out a series of ‘red lines’ – measures which it believes will help ensure individuals and communities are ‘put back on their feet’.
It calls for the government and leaders of organisations working with communities, to sign up to these measures, which include providing funding for a ‘youth job promise’ scheme to get young people who have been unemployed for a year or more a job. It advocates getting local businesses involved in providing these opportunities.
The panel’s neighbourhood survey found that 83 per cent of people feel that youth unemployment was a problem in their areas; as a result it recommends agencies work together to form ‘NEET hubs’ in which they can ‘join up data and resources to tackle youth unemployment.’
The report also states that public services should work together to support all families facing ‘multiple difficulties’ – this involves going beyond the work the government is already doing through its recently formed troubled families programme, which targets the 120,000 ‘most challenged’ families.
A poll of 80 local authority areas conducted by the panel shows that only five per cent of families due to be targeted the programme include individuals who were involved in the riots.
The panel proposes that the government and local public services develop a strategy for helping 500,000 ‘forgotten families’ to turn their lives around. ‘There are people “bumping along the bottom” unable to change their lives,’ said Mr Singh, chair of the panel.