Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Lambeth Council does something

There is a piece in the Guardian today (topped off with a lovely picture of lots of knives) that suggest Lambeth Council are launching an initiative. I realise that this, in itself, might be shocking to some people. However, having been a resident of an north London council who will not be mentioned, I will at least defend Lambeth on the matter of recycling. Apparently, since I last lived in Lambeth (2006), they've even brought in tetrapack recycling. *squee* How exciting! But since I'm nearly as much a recycling geek as I am a public transport geek, I shall save all of the posts about recycling goodness, and the possibility/likelihood of obtaining orange bags etc. until the move has taken place.

What's interesting from the three wheeled pleb's point of view is that Lambeth Council's initiative is about knife crime, which has some bearing on the SE11 area.

I have grave doubts that any council initiative can "solve" knife crime. I suspect that public money being spent in a certain manner might well go to solve the issue, but it's likely (although not guaranteed) that the money will be put to short term fixes rather than long term solutions. It seems to me obvious that the key to tackling crime is to tackle poverty. Whilst it is not clear that it is only those who live in poverty who commit crime, it seems that there is significant correlation. I was persuaded some years ago that one solution to the poverty/crime dynamic is to spend significantly on early years projects. If one engages with women on a single income at the stage when they are first pregnant, and teaches them about healthy eating / alcohol/drug consumption risk during pregnancy, then their child is significantly less likely (due to early intervention from development agencies) to engage in a life of crime. It must be stressed that such early intervention means that they and their children are given access to services and education that mean they're not left to fend for themselves. It's been quite a while sine I've looked at any of this, but Google for the "Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development" for a source about these ideas.

So... how long is the initiative?

The Guardian says:
the five-year strategy is the first "long-term comprehensive" initiative of its kind to be set up in England

It depends what they do over the five years as to how effective it is. I'm not convinced that a 5 year strategy is long enough to tackle the causes of crime. There's too much risk that fundign can be obtained for helpful services which will then fold in 5 years time.

So... where are Lambeth Council spending their money?

The Guardian says:
a series of initiatives that include increased investment in youth services run by and for local people, a specialist outreach team for hard-to-reach youngsters, parenting classes, and a network of police officers in primary schools.

I like the sound of the parenting classes, but I'd prefer it to say "ante-natal classes" since I think that the earlier the intervention, the better. I'm also a massive fan of Camilla Batmanghelidj's charity, Kids Company. It's a self-referring charity for children in South east London, and I believe they do some great work, offering mentoring, skills, and a safe place to hang about. I hope that they'll be on the receiving end of some of the cash (rather than somebody wasting money setting up new Lambeth bodies) to do the same thing. I'm a bit sceptical about the police officers in primary schools, but we'll see. I believe I also once read a BBC article on some research which suggests that teenagers who attend /unstructured/ youth clubs are more exposed to becoming involved with criminal activities. So let's hope that we have fewer youth clubs with very structured activities, rather than more youth clubs that effectively offer little more than a pool table.

Also, I figure that since most of Lambeth's initiative will have occurred too late to offer hope to those people in the 16-19 bracket, we won't have seen the end of the knife crime / stabbings for a while yet. So... The Lambeth Council initiative (if effective) will not really kick in for another 5 years (at least) especially if targeted at younger children, and things could get worse in the meantime. That means (and here I'm being rather pessimistic) that just as the initiative starts working, the public won't have seen the effects, and the whole initiative will be pulled just as it has begun to work (if it does) on the grounds that the public will claim that knife crime has risen, and that the scheme is a waste of public money.

I hope they prove me wrong.

My strategy (and personal goals):

1. Know your nearest neighbours (at least 2 households) well enough to offer them a cup of tea.
2. Know 15 people in your postcode (preferably outside if you're on a boundary) that are also on good enough terms with their nearest neighbours to be able to offer them a cup of tea.
3. Become involved in one youth initiative in your area (youth club, Guides, Scouts, parenting classes, Sunday school, mosque group, school reading scheme).

I figure that if everybody followed all three steps that we could virtually prevent all knife crime in the Borough of Lambeth... Even if we only followed the top 2 steps, we'd have created such a web of people that a great many social ills coudl be solved.

Maybe I should start a "have a cup of tea" campaign. The drawback? I don't drink tea :)

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