CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1675-i

House of COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE

HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

 

 

YOUNG BLACK PEOPLE and the CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

 

 

Tuesday 24 October 2006

MS CAMILA BATMANGHELIDJH and MR SHAUN BAILEY

MS DECIMA FRANCIS and MR KEN BARNES

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 60

 

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

 

1. This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

 

2. The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.

 

 


Oral Evidence

Taken before the Home Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 24 October 2006

Members present

Mr John Denham, in the Chair

Mr Richard Benyon

Mr Jeremy Browne

Mr James Clappison

Mrs Janet Dean

Margaret Moran

Bob Russell

Martin Salter

Mr Gary Streeter

Mr David Winnick

________________

 

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Ms Camila Batmanghelidjh, Kids Company and Mr Shaun Bailey, Youth Worker, gave evidence.

Q1 Chairman: Good morning, Ms Batmanghelidjh and Mr Bailey. Thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning. This is the first public evidence session of our inquiry into Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System, so we are very grateful to you for getting the ball rolling. As you will know, Ms Batmanghelidjh, we have been into Southwark in the summer as part of a number of visits the Committee is going to be making. As a quick way of introduction to the inquiry, at one level, a superficial level, the statistics appear very clear, that wherever you look in the criminal justice system young black people are overrepresented, from being victims of crime through to the numbers in prison and the level of sentences and so on. On the other hand, as is very clear from the evidence we have received, the interpretation or the explanation of those statistics is very controversial indeed, with very different views that we have received: as to why the statistics are the way they are; what it represents; what the causes or the explanations might be. With such a wide disagreement it is obviously difficult to identify what are the right policy responses to what is going on. Those are the reasons why the Committee decided to hold this inquiry. We come into it with no preconceptions, either about what is going on, or the right responses. We hope that your evidence session and the other evidence session we will take and the visits we will make will help us to be clearer in our own minds over the course of this inquiry. Thank you very much indeed. I wonder if each of you could, in one sentence, introduce yourselves for the record and for the public, and then we will get the questions underway.

Mr Bailey: My name is Shaun Bailey. I am a youth and community worker in the north-west of London. I work in an ethnically diverse and socially deprived place. I am a Director of My Generation, a charity which is small and brand new.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I am Camila Batmanghelidjh. I am a psychotherapist with 20 years' experience of working in the inner-cities. I set up two children's charities: The Place to Be and Kids Company. At the moment I am running Kids Company at street level. It is a multidisciplinary agency delivering psychosocial interventions to 11,000 children right across London. We work in 30 schools across London where we deliver social work, psychotherapy and the arts. We also have two children's centres at street level where we receive children and young people who self-refer off the street.

Q2 Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. As you know, this is our first session. You know the title of our inquiry. I am going to ask you what is a very broad question but would ask you to give as precise a response as you can. What do you see as the problem that the Committee should be addressing; what is the major issue we are dealing with here?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think that the youth crime issue is actually about adult incompetencies. It is about adult incompetencies primarily in the social care agencies that are supposed to intervene on behalf of vulnerable children. When I say this, this is not intended as a criticism of those agencies, but I am just trying to explain to you that in very poor areas we cannot get cases into social services, education and health. I have actually sat in meetings where the unspoken policy has been to wait until a young person commits a crime, rather than intervene robustly, so that they become the responsibility of the criminal justice system. This is especially prevalent in mental health where there is a limitation of resources. They do not intervene on behalf of young people, and young people then end up in a situation where their lives are so out of control they commit crime and end up in the criminal justice system. I would actually describe the criminal justice system as holding the reject from every other agency and being forced into intervening as a last resort.

Q3 Chairman: Thank you, that was very clear. Mr Bailey?

Mr Bailey: I see the problem as issues of power. For many, many years now the adults in our situation (and I mean all of us) have given over power to children, and the problem with children is that they do not understand how to use that power. They do not have the emotional intelligence to deal with it. I also see from a policy point of view not nearly enough of the policy is focused on prevention. All the policy is about is punishing children; making them feel bad about who they are and then being surprised when they then act upon that. In the wider society the problem is, as a nation, we are cowards when it comes to telling our children, "No", and denying them some of the things they would like which are actually no good for them - and by that I mean media input and those kinds of things. We are very weak with our control of such things.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: Can I add to this. I agree with Shaun that it is about discrepancies of power; but I actually think that the children end up stealing power from the adults because they feel that the adults are not honouring their responsibility to protect them appropriately and take care of them appropriately. In effect, the children are taking the law and the structures into their own hands.

Q4 Chairman: Those are two very clear opening statements which I think we will be pursuing for the weeks ahead in the inquiry. If we look at offending, as I said in my opening remarks, the statistics very clearly show that young black people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. In terms of your own experience, do those statistics ring true as to what is happening to young black people? Do you think there are significantly differing offending issues that affect young black people as opposed to young people from other ethnicities? Mr Bailey?

Mr Bailey: If there are any specific issues the key one for me is that we have made black people look exotic. We treat black people (and I know definitely because I am a black person) as if they need some kind of different rule system, some different kind of interaction with them for them to do well. You will actually find that these problems black children experience are experienced by their counterparts in a white community who share the same class. What you will see here as well is that we as a black community have not been challenged to look after our children. We need to say to the adults that, "Ultimately this responsibility is yours. We will help but you need to do it yourself". We have given over policy rules which mean that people look to the Government to look after their children, and this is just horrendous because you cannot administer a hug from Westminster. Most children actually just want the affirmation of their parents. That is the way we need to go. Why these things all lead to crime is because children then go into survival mode; and a child in survival mode is almost impossible to deal with; you have got long-term issues. I would add the caveat, we live in a society now where people often talk about the corruption of politicians but I tell you this, no politician is as corrupt as our commercial goings-on. I work and live with a large group of black boys and the amount of negative press and negative material funnelled down their necks about being black from a very early age manifests itself in the kinds of crimes they commit, which are generally street crimes and the crimes people are terrorised about. That is why they pop up to the police more, because the kinds of crimes they do people are more concerned with and are more visible because they are on the street.

Q5 Chairman: Can I just press you a bit on those two things. Are you saying that what is going on in terms of crime levels is really very similar to all young white people or young people of other ethnicities but we have given you this exotic badge, as you put it, so we tend to see young black people's crime as different; or is it that there are some differences in what they are doing?

Mr Bailey: The differences are tiny. It is more the exotic nature of black people to the law is much more of an issue than the differences - the differences are small. What I would say about black people is, we suffer from what I call the "Amazon green frog syndrome". If something happens in the ecosystem in the Amazon the little green frogs die first - that is us. Our children are involved in all kinds of risky sexual behaviour and in drug-taking and selling; these things are spreading upwards and your children, should you be from a comfortable middleclass background (and I am making an assumption here), they are next. People from our class suffer from these things because nobody has addressed the real social issues.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I completely agree with Shaun. I think one of the things we have done is we have ghettoised groups in society. You can see it in the ghettoisation of Muslims; you can see it in the ghettoisation of black people. When you differentiate one group from mainstream society and you attribute to it individual characteristics, you force that group into an identity that separates them from the rest of society. I think what we should be saying is that we care for all children; all children should not be committing crime; and all children's needs should be met. We should not be seeing black or white.

Q6 Mr Browne: It is a rather broad question, but do you think there are certain types of crime that are particularly prevalent among young black people; and, if so, which ones; and why do you think those crimes are most attractive or most prevalent to young black people as distinct from everybody else?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think that some cultural dimensions play a part, in the sense that the essence of the problem is that children who are committing crime are feeling diminished; they are feeling disrespected. This lack of respect is a real fundamental issue; and humiliation is a fundamental issue. The number one agenda in these kids' minds is to empower themselves to regain respect; because if you are disrespected and you are perceived to be an object that is undesirable then you are more likely to be killed off or die - that is intrinsic in the psyche.

Q7 Mr Browne: Which types of crime lead to that?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: There are some crimes related to materialistic things which might be more prevalent in certain neighbourhoods, because the idea is that if you have the gold, the car or the mobile phone then your power rating goes up. Undoubtedly at street level amongst children what you wear and what you have does give you a perverse power rating, which means that you are more likely to be safe. This is what is very important to understand - it is not about greed, it is about the need to be safe.

Q8 Mr Browne: Status?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: No, it is about the need to be safe. When Shaun says to you that these children are in survival mode, even their crimes are about ensuring their own survival. It is just the mechanism that is a bit more down the line. It is very important to understand that the bulk of the crimes are not just about greed. The kids want these clothes because if they have these commodities they are safer on the street.

Mr Bailey: I would go again the media route. If you look at the crimes that black men commit, black boys in particular are presented as dangerous and sexy. There is the whole bling culture with black men. If you listened to music that our young black boys listen to you would be horrified. When David Cameron said that hip hop music was bad he was on to something but he has not got a clue because he actually cannot understand the words being said. If he could understand the words being said he would have said it years ago, because the stuff they talk about is utterly horrible. What it does is it sets the agenda for what is cool and what is acceptable amongst that group of people. I know because as a young boy I grew up heavily involved in hip hop and watched it changed into this horrible animal. The reason why it is important is because they talk about crimes that generate a certain kind of respect generally based on fear and safety. If you are feared you are safe. It is important you understand that. If you are feared you are safe. That is why you do it. There is a whole status thing. If you lived in a community and you have a "rep" - this is one thing you will see rising up amongst the communities - if you have a reputation as someone who will act violently normally (which is the thing) you lift your status high. I know boys in my community who have far more respect than Tony Blair because they look like they will punch you. That is what is going on. That is why they do those kinds of crimes. That is why they come into contact with the police because they are the kinds of crimes that scare you. That is what they are designed to do - scare people.

Q9 Mr Browne: Thank you. My second question follows on from that. It was very notable reading your pamphlet, and I thought it was extremely interesting; and one bit that jumped out at me was your positive experience about being in the Army Cadet Force and the qualities you thought that gave you. I wanted to try and separate out the motivations for your black women and young black men, also teenagers, boys and girls, and men and women of that sort of age group. If you look, for example, at education statistics, attainment levels among young black girls are actually reasonably high, or at least there is not a huge disparity between young black girls and young white girls; but the attainment levels for young black men are markedly worse than they are for any other ethnic category. I wonder whether you could tease out the distinctions between male and female crime categories and motivations, especially based on a lot of experiences as a young man that you mentioned in your pamphlet?

Mr Bailey: The real issue there is the activities that are acceptable for young black people do not interfere with progress in school. School is seen as acceptable as well. If you are a young black woman and you go far in school it is not held against you; if you are a boy it is. With the situations you are involved in, drug-dealing takes time; robbery takes time; you need to learn the emotional state that will allow you to rob someone; you are not going to do that in school. The kind of activities young black women are involved in, even the ones at the least successful end of the scale, pregnancy and the like, you can make those associations at school. The kinds of associations you need to make to be successful or, as my boys would put it, an "on the road villain", take time. The amount of time you put into your career is the same amount of time that my boys put into their crime.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: To add to this, I actually think that the divide is diminishing; we are seeing at street level a lot more girls being recruited into the drug trade, but I do not think they are being caught. They are often used as decoys in cars, as girlfriends and daughters, when deliveries are made for drugs but the police do not anticipate that it is a young girl delivering. The other issue educationally is that obviously adolescent female brains have a different developmental phase from males. Male brains tend to settle slightly later, and that may actually explain some of the differences. I do not think this divide stands very much more. We are seeing nine year-olds delivering drugs now.

Q10 Mr Browne: Nine year-old girls?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: Nine year-old girls.

Q11 Mr Browne: That is obviously a generalisation, but would you still nonetheless say that, in general, academic achievement for black girls is regarded by their peers as being certainly acceptable and possibly even admirable; whereas for black boys it is seen as something which is a source of embarrassment, something you would not want to confess to your peers, that you were keen to get on and do well?

Mr Bailey: It is not even seen. My boys are not saying, "Oh, my gosh, you've got two O levels, what are you playing at?" It is just not on the agenda. This is the problem. The things that generate what is doable, academics are simply not on the agenda and that is part of being portrayed as criminals by the media, dealt with as being exotic or, "You're special, we need to sort you out", and not challenging the black community and their parents to push these issues. Young black men, because of the nature of black culture, arrive to school in a very developed state. Our African roots mean we have a culture of talking; we talk a lot; we give things through the spoken word; and when you are a small child that is hugely helpful to your development. Something goes wrong they minute they enter school. One of the things about entering school is that the parent, good or bad, is no longer wholly in charge of what goes into that child's head. The two elements there are: what is coming in from the outside world, advertising, food and music; and also how the teachers view young black men. Sometimes you get the impression they are waiting for it to go wrong rather than making an intervention to prevent it from going wrong.

Q12 Mr Winnick: I wonder if I could preface my question, Mr Bailey, by asking you this: one organisation had said in effect that we should not be holding this inquiry because if we are going to hold any such inquiry it should not specify black youngsters. Could I just have your comment on that?

Mr Bailey: I understand the emotion behind that, because they are probably feeling, for instance, Operation Trident, made black people feel bad and continues to make black people feel bad. The point about it is that black men are dying from gun crime. It is the same as this debate here, it may make you feel uncomfortable but it needs to be had. Hopefully it will end at some point. If somebody said to me, "Is this debate worthy? Is it of any use?" I would have to say, "Yes".

Q13 Mr Winnick: Thank you very much. You have been working in this area for some time. Your booklet which was referred to by a colleague of mine, if I may say so, is extremely useful. I only wish it could be seen by the organisation that has questioned our motives in holding this inquiry. How far has the profile of young people's offending, be it black or white, changed since your younger days - not that you are particularly old now, compared to some I should say; but how far has that changed over a period of the last few years?

Mr Bailey: What I would say to you is, if you speak to people from academia they are quick to point out we suffer from no more crime now than we did a hundred years ago which, in my view, is a failing because everything else in society has moved on hugely. The difference now is that people start younger, they go deeper and it spreads wider. The amount of young people getting involved in some very heinous crimes is increasing. We have had big debates this morning about how many young people are in the criminal justice system; yes, there are too many; but what needs to be looked at is who is in there, and what have they done to get in there. The stealing of Mars bars is one thing, but many young people now in my community live in absolute terror; and they have armed themselves as a response to that terror. If you come to where I live, I am 35 years of age, people my age feel great. The conversation goes like this, "I'm so glad I'm not a teenager these days because it's dangerous". Being 35 saves you; but the point is that if you are 15 or 16 now you are in real pain and you do not know what to do.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I agree with that. The price of firearms at street level has gone down. You can actually now put your hands on one for 30-50. There is also a mechanism of lending firearms. I think that is really a big issue. You need to understand that for every young person who ends up in custody, if you look at their history, there were huge opportunities, multiple, multiple opportunities, to intervene robustly and the agencies did not. This is very important because if you do not understand that it is a systemic problem the blame will always be put in the child or in the young person, or even in the individual families because, at the end of the day, the parent who cannot parent their child properly, I guarantee you, has had a history themselves.

Q14 Mr Winnick: I wonder if I could put this question to both but particularly to Mr Bailey. How far do you feel that young black people's involvement in the criminal justice system is a result of general risk factors, which have just been referred to - poor housing, poor parenting and poverty; and to what extent is it a matter of cultural choice in a black community which contributes to this problem?

Mr Bailey: 80:20. If you look at my community, my grandparents when they arrived here were hugely conservative. If my granny was alive today she would be horrified at what is going on. Whenever I do any kind of community work and I talk to people there is always some old black lady who comes and says, "I don't know what the world's coming to. What's gone wrong with these children? What's going on?" What we are seeing here is our culture is actually very anti-crime; we are very defensive against it; but our growing youth culture now is what affects it. Hip hop, late nights, bad food, no discipline in schools and lack of structured activities funds crime far more than any cultural activity the black people have been involved in, in the past, or will be involved in, in the future.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I really believe in that strongly. There is nowhere for these kids to go. The big mistake people make is that they assume by having computers and video games that you are meeting the child's needs. What these children need above all else is human relationships. When you have a youth provision where there is one youth worker to 20 children or young people with complex needs then you do not get the level of depth of relationship that is needed to bring about change.

Q15 Mr Winnick: Mr Bailey, in your booklet on page 24, and you have referred to this more than once today but I come back to it, you say certain kinds of music, hip hop, rap music, may promote or condone violence or lawbreaking. If I can put this point to you: surely there are quite a number of people, white as well as black youngsters, who listen to this sort of music and would not dream for one moment, be they black or white, of going out and causing offences of any kind. What would you say to that?

Mr Bailey: I would say you are completely right, and the vast majority of people who listen to hip hop music have never been anywhere near crime but the problem is when I listen to hip hop music I identify with the artist - he is a black man who claims to be talking about where we have come from, and he is something I want to be and I am an impressionable 15 year-old who wants to be hip. When he talks about "our journey from slavery to today" and "get rich by any means necessary", I will not use the exact words, "but if anybody gets in your way pop them in the head", these start to be things that seem relevant to you. When he then keeps going on and all of your counterparts say, "Here's what home boy is saying, this is the deal", it starts to become acceptable modes of behaviour. It drastically lessens [sic] the instance of you wanting to partake in crime. That is what happens; it feels like it has to be done. If you ask most black boys of school age now how they feel about being a "bad man", they will answer something like, "Well I have to be because it's expected of me". That is something not just given by hip hop music but it is a big part of it, and it is what the children talk about. Lots of children are involved in something they think is their lives which they heard off of a record but do not come from anywhere like that kind of background.

Q16 Mr Winnick: I have heard some of this music, if only because my son listened. What effect it has had on him hopefully is not negative. I must say, having listened to it at the time my view, Mr Bailey, was that I was rather surprised at some of the wording which could, as you say, have a very negative effect. You give examples on page 24 about guns and the rest of it, and the denigration of women. Is that not the position as well?

Mr Bailey: The denigration of women is probably the single most important thing. I am a true believer in the family model and that model taking care of the people involved. Family for me is your direct family and your community family after that. Why the criminal justice system has failed with things like restorative justice is because that child has nothing to hold onto. They do not have any notion of "group"; any notion of ceding their own wants and needs to somebody else; any notion of being defended or educated properly, most of which will always come from the family. The Government trying to replace that model with rules and regulations are going to fail horribly, as we can see in the situation we are in. For instance, we have talked about parental education way, way, way too late. You need to educate people about being parents in the school curriculum long before they are parents, so they understand their position as a child and what to expect and their future position as a parent. One of the key things I see is that we sexualise our children. That is the single most important thing. You have had local authorities up and down the country who go to schools and give children condoms and say they are combating teenage pregnancy. No, they are not. By giving children condoms and the amount of sexual material they are exposed to you normalise sex and they feel it is their divine right to have it, when actually it is not because they cannot deal with the emotional fallout. Even if another teenager never got pregnant again the emotional fallout is very key, and that is one of the things that drives their self-esteem up or down and leads to crime.

Q17 Mr Winnick: We live in a society where you cannot just ban, even if it was desirable (and it would not be), bad music of which we disapprove or the rest which could cause trouble. What are you suggesting in fact, that the black community should do far more in order to stop this sort of hip hop music?

Mr Bailey: I agree with that. I understand why you say you cannot ban it but I happen to disagree. When we are ready we put men on the moon for a joke, so stopping a few ill-tempered rappers poisoning our children would be fine. When the Government were asked to not advertise rubbish food to our children they refused and said it would cut into people's balance sheets. Yes, we can do stuff about it. What has happened, we have been the victims of a failed 60s experiment which has made us believe that we cannot censor. We absolutely should and could harshly censor what children see; because the most important thing with children is not actually stopping them seeing the material but sending the message that they should not be doing it. Children are always going to rebel - that is fine, let them do it but let them rebel feeling like they are doing something wrong, and not that it is a divine right to go ahead and do it. That is what you see today.

Q18 Mr Winnick: Do you agree with that?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I actually think that it is an interplay between psychological states of mind and environmental factors that facilitate that state of mind. I would say to you that your child listens to this music and does not go and commit crimes because the psychological vulnerabilities are not there in order for the two meeting points to happen. The psychological vulnerabilities are children and young people who feel humiliated; who feel ostracised; who feel that they are not in the mind of a caring adult, who then decide, because the powerful people are not protecting them, they had better be powerful themselves. Then you look to your environment to see what the powerful tools are, and you use those. Whether it is raping someone, using a gun or a knife, or running a drug business or having a lot of money, the tools are varied. I do not think that just removing the tools solves the problem. At one point, when the police response was really robust in some of the boroughs, street crime went down but gang rapes behind closed doors went up.

Q19 Mr Streeter: This is very powerful evidence from both of you. We are looking at the causes of this problem and I want to tackle a couple of issues here, and the first one is housing. Shaun, I think you said earlier that this is not so much a black issue as a class issue; and that it affects white kids from a similar background. I want to talk about parenting in a second, but on the issue of poor housing how does that feature in this problem? What causes it?

Mr Bailey: If you live in an overcrowded situation with no privacy straightaway that affects your state of mind. We have housing laws in this country that are greedy and centred on people who live in the greenbelt. England is not quite as small as it looks on the map. Housing policy should be changed to let us spread out a little bit more. The tiny, cramped, damp-ridden, bad-windowed, burglary-prone (because of poor security) place that I live in affects my state of mind and I have other outlets for that. If children do not feel safe straightaway, how many children spend any time with their parents because they have got a dining room? Have they got anywhere quiet to do homework? The fact that many people across the country have to run homework clubs is a shame. In one sense it is great because you get a professional teacher; but in the other sense it is actually a space and privacy issue. Housing is important. You cannot just give people a lovely gilded cage and they will be nicer. It is a key element. Housing policy is debilitating our young men. In my community single parentdom for 15-19 year-olds is a career choice. At the very least that girl will think, "If I get pregnant I'm definitely getting housed", so she is not worried; but that robs our men of any responsibility because they know they will not get housed, so they go and get people pregnant willy-nilly knowing at the very least they will get housed and "I'll just do my thing". We need to address that situation.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think one area of vulnerability is young people who cannot live in their homes. We have got a lot of young people, for example, who have to leave the family home because parents are addicted to drugs and are out of control. Right now we have got a 16 year-old with a chronic history of neglect, with parental drug abuse and parental suicide. We are really struggling to get him housed - in fact this week we are appointing a solicitor - and he has just been placed in an adult hotel where the other inhabitants are crack cocaine users. This is a kid who has left his house to escape crack cocaine users and he has been placed right next to them. What happens is you take these kids to the agencies and they have taken the first step of trying to change their lives. We managed to get this young boy off drugs and we managed to straighten him out, but he goes to these agencies and it is one brick wall after another - one brick wall after another - and they get despondent and then they turn their back on society. So many times kids have gone to housing departments and then said, "I'd better drug deal". Then there is the issue of when they go into private rental, which has become the trend now. They tell young people, "We'll pay your housing benefit if you privately rent", especially young men, but they do not pay the deposit or the two months' rent in advance. Because it is the social security, the landlords want two or three months' rent in advance because they are afraid they are not going to get their money, or they do not want the tenant. So these young people have to go and drug deal to get the deposit and the two months' rent in advance to get housed. The other thing is that the hostels are not supervised. This is a major problem. There are major drug-dealing and criminal networks in the hostels because they do not have staff on duty.

Q20 Mr Streeter: You have both mentioned what I call "fatherlessness" as an issue. I am not sure if you have seen the statistics but we have been presented with them and they are very stark in terms of percentages of young people growing up in a lone-parent household: White 25%: Indian 13%; Pakistani 19%; Bangladeshi 18%; Black Caribbean 57%; Black African 47%; Other Black 64%. It slaps you in the face. I believe that fatherlessness in any community is a serious issue for any child. Can you just say why you think in particular this is happening to the black community, and what could be done about it? I bet when your granny came across in the 50s (you mentioned her earlier) her cultural experience was not of those kinds of issues, so what has happened in the last 30 or 40 years to make this such a live issue?

Mr Bailey: I think amongst young black people it is the promotion of sex, quite frankly; sex and absolutely no responsibility; no discipline around those issues; also expectation. People expect to be in a family and these trends have been followed by the Government but not bucked. If you look at any Government form, for instance, they have removed marital status from all forms in an attempt to be cool and not make people feel bad. The point being, children from a married, two-parent family, like it or not, do better: less time in jail; less time in hospital; more time in school; greater careers. That is a fact. The Government and the powers that be, whoever they are, should be suggesting to people, "Look, don't feel bad because you're not in this situation but, understand, it is a situation that benefits you as individuals and your family". Obviously life is hard and people move on, but this is something that is not promoted, and by not promoting it you actively act against it. Within a black community the removal of religious values has been a very powerful feeling. We live in a secular society now that is saying to people, for instance, we should not educate our people in faith schools because of our interfaith relations, which is nonsense, because most faiths get on fine. Where the problem lies is interfaith to secular society. The key thing for me is, if you see the way in which my boys talk about women they have absolutely no idea about relationships. That should be looked at in school. I only use school because school is a captive audience, and it needs to be looked at. It should be looked at in school. Under whatever guise you put it under it should be in the curriculum because that will help ease a lot of our social ills, because the biggest social ill (and I do not know if you will agree, Camila) is violence in the home; and that is because men do not understand relationships with women.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I also think that actually the mothers are hugely responsible, because they have created a culture where they can get rid of the adolescent boy; they can get rid of the male partner; they can survive on their own. Often people think it is the males who are the culprits, the irresponsible people who actually come along and make these girls pregnant and walk off, and they underestimate the level of rejection and cruelty from the females towards the males. I actually think the males are vulnerable. It starts the minute the adolescent boy looks slightly like a male and behaves like a male and often the mother wants that young male banished from the house and a hate relationship often develops. I really think we underestimate the vulnerabilities of young black men.

Q21 Martin Salter: Shaun, I could not agree more with you about the problem of the lack of, in particular, male role models. In terms of your evidence, in your written response you used the expression "help for married/two-parent families". Were you making the distinction between a couple that are married and a two-parent family that is not married but providing the same role models? Are you arguing effectively for support for marriage or support for two-parent families?

Mr Bailey: If you asked me I would say support for marriage. Two-parent families are fine and we live in a real world and that is the situation. It is not my opinion but it is a fact - married families do better. They do better for the adults and the children involved. The key thing about raising children is if the adults do well the children do too. Very few people do well and let their children suffer. That has been one of the key missed actions in all policies. We have heard a lot of talk about child poverty. Child poverty does not exist, it is family poverty. You will never visit a family where the parents have lots of money and are doing well and the children are not. 99% of people will always advocate well for their children. We are biologically and spiritually predisposed to do so; that is what we want to do; but it is all the other outside things. The things that are best for our children is not one thing but absolutely everything, every little thing. If you speak to children what they actually want is framework and the ability to be normal. If you ask children, "What do you want?" they say, "I want a house, a wife and a car". That is what they say but there are things which get in the way - poor schooling, poor parenting and involvement in crime.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: That is very important, because what I hear time and time again from young people is "I want to be legit". The conception that young people enjoy being criminals, or want to be criminals, or want to be on the peripheries of society is entirely inaccurate. They want to belong to the centre of society, but they do not have the tools with which to engage with the centre of society as valued and valuing citizens, for a number of reasons.

Q22 Martin Salter: Thank you very much. That leads me nicely on because, Shaun, you talk about frameworks. I have been concerned for a long time about how it is almost given that kids will want to find out where the boundaries are and to push them. In a lot of these instances youngsters are just not finding boundaries, or feeling boundaries or having the framework that you talked about. Do you put this down to schools; do you put this down to parenting, or lack of them; do you put this down in the black communities to the declining influence of the church? Where do you think these boundaries need to be drawn and why are they not as identifiable as perhaps once they were?

Mr Bailey: I put it down to Government policy robbing adults of responsibility. One of the key things I see now, we always ask our children how they want to be raised and the thing you will find is that they do not know. If they knew they would go ahead and do it and they would not need us. That is the point. The reduction of this steady church influence has had a massive effect on our community, because most people when they behave it is for their granny, minister or pastor. It sounds strange but it happens an awful lot. We are in a situation now where we fight it. A key thing for the black community in particular is that they are not made to feel British. Most black people you see who do just fine it is because they have no objection to feeling British. The thing about that is then you are involved in society. The key effect of being in the Army Cadet Force for me was meeting adults who cared and demonstrated that care; and the fact that they made you feel, "You're involved. You're British. This is what the British do - have a British way of life". That is sometimes a fault of multiculturalism - we ask people to trade on their differences. Everybody is a victim, and you will only get something if you can prove you are a minority; so people have acted on their minority.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I agree. I really think these differentiations are destructive. Why are we having Black History Month? I am not sure that these constructs are very conducive to having a society that accepts everything as a citizen, and does not define people by their racial identities. I agree with that. Please, I urge you to not underestimate - this crisis is really reflecting the problems that we have in our care structures. Please do not misunderstand this as it just being about individual children's cultures. It is a systemic problem; we have got to face the systemic issues.

Q23 Martin Salter: Camila, on the issuing of policy, do you actually think there is a correlation between the way communities are policed and the decline in respect for the police?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think there are a couple of issues. I do think that there is a tremendous under-resourcing in the police, and what is happening at street level is that the kids are getting away with committing crimes and they perceive the police as not being there robustly enough. I think the police cannot because the sheer scale of the problem in some neighbourhoods is huge. The other issue is that the police are not perceived as the people who would distribute justice. It is actually a relative to whom these young people turn. There is a cycle of revenge. "You commit a crime against me, I'll get my relatives to come round and do you". That, I think, is a problem. The other thing is that I do think police have to pick up far too much of the mental health issues. There is something called a borderline personality disorder which is basically an individual's inability to regulate their emotions and their interactions. Really this is a mental health issue but classically mental health agencies do not want to pick it up; so the police are ending up having to mop up vast numbers of people with mental health and drug addictions. Drugs play a very major part. We cannot access rehabs for young people; and there are a lot of young people who want to give up drugs but it takes about nine weeks before a drugs worker is allocated; and most of the rehabs that are out there cannot cope with this aggressive client. The rehab model is based on a middleclass talking-shop model, and these kids cannot control themselves very well so when they have an outburst in withdrawal in rehab they get chucked out. I would say that drug addiction is probably the single-most huge risk factor in breaking down the social fabric. We are having great difficulty accessing detoxes.

Mr Bailey: Just to add to that is the mixed message of the declassification of cannabis. The cannabis our boys smoke now is stronger than the stuff people were smoking in the 60s. The stuff we smoke now is just so powerful. Most of my clients - and you are talking about boys I have known their entire lives - have had a fight because they have been basically psychotic from cannabis. I watch them withdraw and then I watch them freak out all because of cannabis. There is a false economic opportunity that drug-dealing presents as well, which is very enticing when you are young. We need to say to our young people, "Drugs are a no, no", with no caveat or nicety; they are wrong. We need to provide an alternative. Some of our youth work that goes on today is next to useless. It is expensive and useless because it does not challenge young people; it does not ask them to go on and be better. If you have read the pamphlet I wrote, the reason I harp on so much about the Army Cadet Force is that they expected interaction and they pushed for it. In the youth services you come in there, you sit down, you throw a tantrum and they ask you how you are doing and can they get you a drink. This is wrong. It is making young people think they do not have to do stuff.

Q24 Mr Benyon: We have been talking about the problem and it has been a predictably depressing catalogue of difficulties that we face in this report and that you face every day in what you do. What I want to look at are solutions, and I have been writing down solutions from what you are saying. Some of them are cultural, and it is about somehow reversing this trend of the Government taking over responsibility for bringing up our families; it is about getting rid of this exotic cache that you describe. What actual interventions can we recommend in our report to Government to really make a difference? You have talked about housing; you have talked about discipline in schools and drugs. You are also suggesting we should be supporting certain areas with male role models, with activity organisers, with organised groups which take people's time away from the possibility that they can be drawn into any form of bad behaviour. Is this the sort of thing you want us to start looking at?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think you need to look at a longer spectrum. There is one group of young people who would really benefit from role models, education, challenging their preconceptions and you can do one bit of intervention at that end. There is another group of young people who are really profoundly disturbed now whom you need to deal with robustly and solve their problems, because this very disturbed group is so suicidally powerful that they set the tempo at street level. The ones who could easily join the centre of society, if they have to deal with this suicidally disturbed individual they have to become more aggressive to survive around this type of individual. What I would say is: honest to God, there is a vast wastage of resources in the agencies. They do not deal with cases robustly enough. It is, "Come this week, and then come in two weeks' time and then maybe we'll have a review of your case and then come again". This kind of intervention for somebody who is really disturbed and asking for help is useless. Please, look at robust structures all under one roof. Do not make a kid go to various appointments in different agencies. It is nonsense; children do not operate like that. Put all the professionals in one place; open the place from nine o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night; let the kids' problems be solved properly. When you deal with this really powerfully disturbed group they stop driving the others as perverse leaders, and the others can be managed by a number of excellent initiatives out there. There are some fantastic initiatives that can reach the larger group of kids who just need role models and need a different way of thinking. Actually the group that is driving things at street level is the really disturbed group that nobody goes near because a) they are afraid of them and b) they do not have the resources to deal with them.

Mr Bailey: I would say, firstly, trust the voluntary sector. I have been doing youth work for 18-odd years and I see statutory youth clubs with hundreds of thousands of pounds poured into them doing absolutely nothing. This target-driven madness that destroys youth work needs to stop. It needs to talk about quality. Particularly, statutory services cannot concentrate on quality when they have to keep generating numbers. Numbers are not the issue - it is quality.

Q25 Mr Benyon: Could I just ask you on that, with the voluntary sector which has such an enormous spectrum, some of it is through an arm of Government with millions of pounds a year, but actually if Government channelled funding to some of the smaller groups, just 10,000 here and a few more there, that could make an enormous difference?

Mr Bailey: That is what I am talking about. There is a voluntary sector; there is an arm of Government for people who work in the voluntary sector; it is statutory. The situation is like this: if you work on the ground, you have the inclination, the time and the need to put these situations right; you have the right staff. I work with a big bunch of professionals who are professionally useless, and they hide behind the fact that they have these doctorates in this and doctorates in that. A classic example: in my own area, more than four years ago I told them to concentre on cannabis; they told me, "no", we had to open a crack project. For every one crack user I have, I have 40 cannabis users - 40 cannabis users. It is only now they have woken up to this. These are the things when you set up local projects, they have no other option than to respond to local issues because that is who they are. The key thing if you are talking about policy is how these people are funded. You must not fund them year on year. Projects need to be funded over a long time. It takes time to make change, and that is the key thing. What happens now is you get funding for a year and if you have not generated a massive change then nothing happens to you. Fortunately for our project we were funded on the under-spend, which continued. It took me 18 months to make any difference at all, but now I do more work than our Connexions centre which gets 1.5 million. If I just had the 0.5 part I would be doing well. I would have a school. These are things which need to be looked at. It is key that you do not hand too much power to local authorities because you get caught up in their politics. If you come to my borough now, Kensington and Chelsea, the councillors of the borough are absolutely fabulous because they cannot hide from the residents; the officers of the council are living in a different universe.

Q26 Chairman: If we were thinking of making recommendations, as Richard Benyon was saying, whom do you trust to allocate this money; because it is a huge problem for Government? Whitehall is remote; local councils are closer but you worry about their professional structures. Where should Government look to be able to identify these relatively small, very in-touch groups, and to be able to know how to sort out, frankly, the ones that will do a good job from the ones that will not?

Mr Bailey: You do all of the above, but one of the key things I see in our world is the police. The problem about being a policeman is that you cannot hide. They send you out every day from the station so you get to build up quite a community profile of what goes on. Use the police. Also use the Ofsted Inspectors; I am sure they are costing the public a lot of money; make them do some work as well. They go down and they see these projects, and sometimes they are of quite good use because they are quite pushy, which is helpful. The voluntary sector has issues and they need to maybe professionalise it a little bit more to manage the money, but they could be helped with that rather than being hit over the head by the local authorities' politics.

Q27 Mr Benyon: That is music to my ears on the voluntary sector, I could not agree more. Just to round this bit off by asking whether you think what we are concentrating on in terms of young black males in the criminal justice system whether there are interventions we should be looking at to stop offending more generally across the whole criminal justice system, and whether we are being too focused here?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think you are being too focused. I know at street level of young people who have been stuck in youth offending schemes for two years without any education. Why, because the youth offending worker cannot get the kid into a school. Or young people who need mental health assessments but cannot get them. Why, because the mental health teams do not have the resources to do the work. I really urge you not to see this in terms of racial divide, but to understand it as a group of young people becoming tired of being failed over and over and over again. On the voluntary sector, I think that there are some voluntary agencies that could deal with street level situations because a lot of people are vocational and they do a very good job in the voluntary sector; but I think you have to be careful. The really disturbed groups need a combination of interventions, because just the voluntary sector on its own with 10,000 is not going to be able to do the job that is really required with the really disturbed groups. I would differentiate. In terms of where to distribute the money - I would suggest that the Office of the Children's Commissioner might be a good start. One of the things I think you need to understand is that when we challenge a local authority, for example, when you take a local authority to court over a child that they have not taken into care you, as a voluntary agency, then get penalised with your funding not being given to you. Also the voluntary agencies need to maintain some independence from the statutory agencies, so that we can come here and tell you the truth and our words are not bought with money.

Q28 Margaret Moran: I think you have answered quite a few of the questions I was about to ask. On one of the issues, of course, you are telling us some very valuable stuff about one- stop services, front-line, and essentially bottom-up services. One of the problems, and it is evidenced in what we have had presented to us, is how you evaluate the effectiveness of those projects. You have referred in your submission to your health project being extremely successful. Could each of you tell us how could we evaluate, because money is going to come in the direction of voluntary services, and prove that this works?

Ms Batmanghelidjh: Two things: Kids Company has been evaluated 12 times since 2000, so we are hugely evaluated by independent evaluators. Every evaluation there is walks through our doors. Right now we have just had one completed by the University of London. What I would say about evaluations is that the questions you ask are not necessarily the appropriate ones to ask; because you are asking things sometimes like, "How many kids went to college or university?" When you are talking about a child who is murderous, who would kill you in a blink, and you ask me, "When is he going to university?" you are asking me the wrong question. Ask me, "When is he going to be feeling empathy?" because that is more relevant. What I would say is that a lot of evaluations are asking the wrong questions, therefore they are missing the point. You want my honest opinion: I do not have one millimetre of respect for any of the evaluations that have been done on us, and they have all been brilliant!

Mr Bailey: I have to agree. The problem we have now with evaluation is the start point. There are some very unrealistic start points. I know, for instance, our local youth club is under huge pressure to generate this massive number of people and nobody has thought to ask, "Actually, are there that many young people here?", and questions like that. There is way too much emphasis on the quantitative rather than the qualitative change. One of our key ups is we won a job club. The most important thing that goes on in the job club is actually persuading people that a job is a viable alternative. That is far more important than the ten people we get into the Wellway training course, or whatever, but these things are hard to evaluate. What makes them really hard to evaluate is that the people doing the evaluation have no respect for them. It is definitely hard to track those kinds of qualities, but again I go back to the man on the moon. We put a man on the moon for a joke, so I am sure that we could figure out how we could evaluate quality material.

Ms Batmanghelidjh: I think the emotional dimension is very important. The current crisis is emotional. It is not about how many people have degrees or do not; it is about why are people feeling they are justified in hurting other people; and that is emotional.

Chairman: Thank you both very much indeed. I think that has been helpful. You have got us off to a really good start on this inquiry. It has been very stimulating and very informative.


 

 

Examination of Witnesses

 

Witnesses: Ms Decima Francis, From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation, and Mr Ken Barnes, 100 Black Men, C-A-N-I Consultancy, gave evidence.

Q29 Chairman: Thank you both for joining us this morning. I think you have both been able to hear the two previous witnesses, so you will know the sort of ground that we have covered. May I ask each of you in one or two lines to introduce yourself for the Committee and for the record, please?

Ms Francis: My name is Decima Francis, I am from the From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation. We are based in Southwark, in Peckham. We are ten years old as a project, although the parent company is 25 years old, and we are just in the process of losing that. We work with young people who are excluded, in danger of exclusion, who are out of the system completely, and we created the Gun Crime Curriculum for the Mayor of London, which is in all London schools - a lot of them are not using it - and we have just piloted three times in Milton Keynes in Woodhill Prison.

Mr Barnes: My name is Ken Barnes. I represent two organisations here. First, I am the founder and the President of an organisation called 100 Black Men of London - the organisation is basically a collection of men who volunteer their time to mentor young boys and girls within the community - and also I represent an organisation called C-A-N-I Consultancy, which focuses on intervention programmes within the education system.

Q30 Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. We will, inevitably, cover very similar questions to the previous session, but we are very interested in the answers you give. I will start in a very similar way. You know the title of our inquiry. You both come from organisations that have seen some need to target a get specific response on young black men. I would be interested to know why and what you think the big problem or the big issue is that we should be addressing in the course of our inquiry. Mr Barnes, do you want to go first?

Mr Barnes: Firstly, a point I always seem to make, and that is that I believe children are a product of society, but I also believe that society is something that has been allowed to be created by the adults within that society, so I think we have to take some responsibility for the conduct of our children. I think too much deference has been made on our children. The focus on your inquiry is about the correlation between the amount of young black boys in the penal system. I am really going to focus here on the education system, because I believe there is a definite causal link between education and crime, education and poverty. So, this is going to be the basis of the evidence I am going to give to you today.

Ms Francis: Can you ask me the question again?

Q31 Chairman: Yes. We have got this inquiry, we have called it "Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System", which, as I said at the very opening of the session, comes up because the statistics say there is overrepresentation. There is a big debate about what they mean, what is going on, what that represents. You have come from an organisation that has seen a need, for whatever reason, to target young black men and so I am asking the question: what is the issue you think that we should be focusing on in our inquiry?

Ms Francis: I think the same as the speakers before. This is governmental, this is societal, this is parental and this is global. I say this because in March I was at Harvard University with the young, black men of Harvard who were looking at 'rap', and we were looking at 'rap' as the new language for young people, in particular black people now. We were interlinked with Africa, South America and different cities in America. The young, black people across the world who did not speak English spoke 'rap'. They could speak to each other in 'rap', and I will go back to what the young man said before. This is a very dangerous language. It is allowed to be because it does not really affect your community yet, but I am seeing signs of it starting to happen. Distributors are allowed to distribute this music, which is a hell music, and we have the Pied Piper as a play and as a story, and it is very interesting that it is music that is used to take the children away because it puts them into a state of trance and then it becomes the vision for the future. We are talking about globalisation. The way that the young people dress and behave and the words they use that are not British, they are not Caribbean and they are not African. We do not say "nigger", we do not use those words at all. I lived in America for seven and a half years and did much the same kind of work. What I have seen is that, as that word, which has come to Britain out of the music, has become part of the way that our young people speak, the young people now treat each other in the same way as the people in the Deep South, the KKK, et cetera, and the way that we kill each other as young people, because they do, in exactly the same callous, brutal and inhuman way, with total disregard for anybody and anything. They will shoot in the morning, outside a school, outside a fish and chip shop, in McDonalds, in front of parents and children, and they are using that word. Before we used it we never had this kind of killing - not by children on children - and they are the only ones using it, so we must be very mindful. If the Asians' or if the white people's young people produced music like that, you would stop it in a heartbeat, you would stop it immediately. Eminem, or whatever his name is, cannot produce that kind of music. He only mentioned his mother in a negative way and there was huge uproar across the world. What they do and say about us as women and people and the ability to kill each other for no reason whatsoever is undesirable, and you have allowed it to happen.

Q32 Chairman: From the two of you we have had education as a major issue, we have had the rap music issue as a major influence. In the previous session there was some discussion about whether what was happening to young, black people was actually a class issue, was actually the way we have labelled something that is happening to all poor, young people. From what you both say it sounds as though there is something distinctive about what is happening to young, black people which is different, at this moment in time, at least, from what is happening in other communities. Is that fair?

Mr Barnes: I would say so. I would say most definitely there is something distinctive. I would also add, I think, that the crimes that are committed by young, black boys are similar crimes that are committed in other parts of the country where social and economic conditions exist, but there may be different reasons why black boys commit this crime. I work in the school system and continually one of the issues that comes up is we spend an inordinate amount of time discussing with the children how are they going to get home safely from school. That journey may be half a mile or that journey may be two miles. The most underreported crimes at the moment are crimes against young people, and it is a massive problem. These crimes are being committed, obviously, by young people, and what happens is that when these young people commit these crimes, they develop an impunity, they feel they can continue, and that criminal mindset then develops and is transferred into their adult life. I sit here, I have worked with hundreds of thousands of young children. I would say the majority of them are definitely not criminals, but there is a fact that the media would propagate that black boys are criminals, and psychologists have sometimes seen that young people sometimes act in accordance with what they think many of their peers are doing, rather than what they believe many of their peers are doing, just to fit in with what they see as the norm.

Ms Francis: I am going to start by saying that the percentage of young, black people, boys in particular, but young, black people, who are failing or who are into crime is not so huge. We have to say that. When the speakers spoke before they talked about two groups. There are three groups. There are the groups who are doing very well thank you very much, there are the groups who are on the borderline and there are the groups who are in danger and are dangerous. Let us put that in context first. What is distinct about the black boys and the crimes that we are committing at the moment is not just specific to Britain. I travel a lot; I have just come back from Boston. I am Caribbean; I go home a lot. I watched this thing happen on my native island of St Kitts within five years of getting American TV. Before that we had British TV, and everybody was outside socialising, having a life, et cetera, et cetera. Within five years, in a community of 36,000 people - all of us are related in one way or another, we are all cousins in one way or another - we have gang violence, drugs, murder, et cetera, et cetera. How is that possible? Last year there were 12 murders by young people. They dress the same, in that same way, with their trousers down their behind, the hoodies, et cetera, et cetera. There is a globalisation that is happening. We really must look at that. What is missing is that we have forgotten what it is to be British. It is not okay to be British any more. It is not okay to be proud. It is not okay to say, "Clean the streets. Clean your windows. Make the place look nice. Do not throw your rubbish on the floor. Get up for old women and young children. Behave like adults and behave well. This is a civilised country." We are not doing it any more, and we need to start again. I started FBMF because, when I came back from America in 1995 to do the arts, I saw these young, black people hanging around on the street. It was like: what are they doing there? Why are they there? Because there were so many of them. They said they were excluded from school. This is England. Who thought of anything so stupid? You just cannot exclude young children from their society. That is where they spend most of their life; that is where they build their history; that is where they have their friends. If you do it to adults within six months, they are depressed. What do you think happens to children? That is number one. Number two: the problem started with you - not you personally because you were not in government. You gave licence to young girls to go out and get pregnant so that they can leave their family home, because you gave them flats and money and furniture, but you did a very dangerous thing in that you said that the young men, their partners, were not allowed to live there or be there, and then you talk about fatherless children.

Chairman: I think I will ask you to draw this answer to a close because we have many other issues to cover. I think you have made some really important points there. The reason I cut you off is because I think we are going to cover a lot of the issues that you are talking about in the later questions.

Q33 Mrs Dean: You have mentioned globalisation, and if I could hear from both of you. In your experiences how does a young person's involvement with the Criminal Justice System vary between Caribbean, African and other black groups? Is there a difference?

Ms Francis: Yes, there is. The Caribbean children commit a lot of street robberies and they will hang more with more of the other communities. The African communities have recently come in. We have been here longer, and also we came for different reasons. We were invited, and so we are second, third, fourth, fifth generations. The Africans - I find in Peckham we have the largest number - they are fairly new and they have come in with different issues. Some of them have been boy soldiers, some have been in war torn countries, so they have a completely different attitude to socialising. They are brought over and they are put into a school. There is not the counselling, there is not the work that is done behind to be able to allow that child to deal with what is going on in their lives. Many years ago our young people said that they needed counsellors in schools at eight o'clock in the morning so that they can off-load what is happening to them so they can begin the process of education. The Africans have a different mindset. They also are thinking about what is happening in their own country. For example if they are from Sudan, they are dealing with issues of war, or their families at home, if they have families at home - those are the two differences - but you will see a much larger increase of crime within the African community, we are starting to have to deal with it right now, as they settle into the country much more.

Mr Barnes: You mentioned that it is a global issue, and I talk within the context of England and America because I am in America quite often. In fact the organisation I belong to, we have a number of chapters in America, and there are some definite common denominators between the two. One is the social exclusion, social exclusion in society in general and social exclusion in the education system, but it is also the case that the black boys are far more likely to be stopped, they are far more likely to be arrested, they are far more likely to be charged, and they are far more likely to be given a custodial sentence than any other ethnic group. So, these are some factors that we also should be examining and the reasons behind that.

Q34 Mrs Dean: Do you see a difference between those of Caribbean origin and those of African origin?

Mr Barnes: I sometimes see a difference in the sense of self and sense of identity. I have obviously worked with groups across the board, and within the African culture they have their own language, they have their own dress, they have their own identity; so I do sometimes feel that the African boys I work with have a stronger sense of identity than the Caribbean boys that I work with. But within the context of being black, I heard the comment earlier on, "Why do we have Black History Month?", and I feel quite strongly about that. I have just conducted a series of events for that. Personally, I believe that there should not be a need for it, but, unfortunately, there is. My daughter was in school only three weeks ago and they were doing a fantastic issue on the Tudors. She was very interested, as she used to like to learn. She then stood up and asked her teacher: "Were there any black people around in Britain in the Tudor times?" Her teacher then stood up and said, "No", and I found out this week it did not only happen in my daughter's secondary school, it happened in my daughter's primary school two weeks prior. If we have a black child that is trying to relive history through a teacher's eyes and a teacher says, "Look, there was no-one like you there at all", that gives them no sense of self. If our children are, in essence, being denied their history, then I think aspects of black history within schools are extremely important.

Q35 Mr Streeter: But if that is the accurate answer, what should the answer be?

Mr Barnes: In my report I mentioned one of the primary things is the education of teachers. For a teacher to stand up and tell a child that there were no black people around is miseducation. It is not education; that is miseducation. We went to the library the following day, we did our research. I said, "Just take this to your teacher and show your teacher." I am not too sure how the teacher took it, but within the school system this is not education, this is miseducation, and this is what has happened within our school system. I see miseducation of our children. Within my report I believe there are a myriad of factors which contribute to crime, poverty, socio-economics, but I believe that education is about socialisation, it is about teaching our children about respect for boundaries, respect for rules, respect for society. Our children are within a school system that at times does not accept them, does not respect them, and, more importantly, does not expect from them. That is the reality of it. We can talk about institutional racism or, at best, we can talk about subconscious biases, because we all have subconscious biases. I sit here and you look at me, not as a man, you look at me as a black man, everyone here looks at me as a black man, and if your perception of black is negative, then I am starting from a deficit model. Our teachers look at our children as being deficient rather than different. Even though there are a myriad of factors that I have focused on the education system, because I work in education, time and time again the disappointing thing for me is that organisations like myself are brought in on a remedial basis, not on a preventative basis, they are brought in after our children have reached a kind of psychosis where they are beginning to rebel against society.

Chairman: I am going to apply the same restriction I did to Decima Francis. We will cover a lot of these issues. If we can keep the answers to questions quite tight, then we will be able to do that.

Q36 Mrs Dean: Can I follow on from that. You mentioned an issue about miseducation, and that applies equally to girls and boys?

Mr Barnes: Yes.

Q37 Mrs Dean: To what extent are the issues which From Boyhood to Manhood and 100 Black Men seek to address unique to black boys and to what extent are they also applied to black girls?

Mr Barnes: In a school system I think the black girls are really catching up. Some black girls are catching up the boys in the way of disaffection, and so I would cover the whole spectrum. When I work within a school system I talk about emotional intelligence, but the main thing I try to give these young boys is hope. I want to give them hope for the future because when they are at home they see their adults, they see their uncles, they see their dads, facing economic hardship, and school is what I call the first example of delayed gratification. We are saying to a young person: "Go to school for five, six years and at the end you will hopefully and potentially get this." But our children are looking and they are seeing people investing, not only in the education system but in further education and degrees and still not being able to get their rightful place or rightful just rewards. How can you then tell a ten-year old, "We will invest five years in primary school and further education with the hope that you can possibly get an excellent career", when they see people around them with perfectly good qualifications not achieving that. I am coming back to the 'rap' culture - because I believe it is obviously definitely a contributory factor - that our children are being sold. There are many white people, and I will be honest with you, who are getting rich off feeding our children a lifestyle which any one of us, given the choice, would potentially go for because it is easy, it is glamorous and nobody likes to work. We all want an easy life, do we not? If our children are sold this - and this is an important point - from every single angle, and I agree with the comment there, if there was a 'rap' record that brought out about a Jewish man killing another Jewish man there would be turmoil, so why are these misogynistic lyrics allowed to be continued time and time again and for our young children to be hearing them. It is all part and parcel of the socialisation that happens to our young people. I try to give young people hope.

Chairman: Mr Barnes, I really am going to invite you for a short answer. The problem is that we are running ahead over questions that members are going to ask. If we can keep it quite tight, we will make sure we cover everything.

Q38 Mrs Dean: Decima Francis, could you say a little bit about the difference between black boys and black girls and about the issues that are unique to boys but how much they extend to girls?

Ms Francis: Black girls have it a lot easier because black women have it a lot easier. A lot of the problems started when the women who were invited here, came to become professionals, they were asked to become nurses. The men came to work on the railways and the buses and do factory work. That is a huge difference. Once the change in nursing recruitment occurred, all the women gave up, so we have women who do not work any more as nurses. Then education went out of the house. My mother was a nurse, most of her friends were nurses, there were books in the house, we had to help them with their work. There was a completely different sense of who you were and what you were. But black women are super women, or we are given that label: we run the house, we do whatever we have to do, we have the cars, we have the money, we are promoted much easier; so the women are brought up with that sense of the women being powerful and getting through and being able to manage, and that they can manage on their own. Nothing is told about the loneliness, the lack of partners, et cetera, that goes along with that, and the lack of support in general. We have the programme From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation. We piloted a girls' programme. We got very little funding for it. We had to stop it. No-one is aware that the problem, of course, is always going to affect the girls in the end. So, that programme is no longer going forward, but the need for it is increasing. I think the girls are giving up because they are seeing what their parents are having to put up with and I do not think they are prepared to put up with it. I think that is what is happening. They also want the easy money, and that word "easy" is really important because that is what I hear from young people, that is what I hear in prisons. We have to remember that at the end of the day young people make the choice. We know that everything is a factor in them taking up a life of crime, but at the end of the day it is a choice, and what we should be looking at is why they are making the choices. The girls are making the choices because they want what they think the boys have and they do not want to go to through the degradation, and also they are now victims: the girls are being raped, the girls are being treated badly. That is the difference really.

Mr Barnes: Can I make a comment on that.

Q39 Chairman: Let us move on.

Mr Barnes: I think it is an incredibly important comment. Working with an organisation called 100 Black Men, the experiences that I had before the organisation was established of just saying to government departments that the organisation was about 100 Black Men, that syntax caused an immense amount of trepidation. Why? Because there were black men and there were supposedly 100 of them, and I should believe that the black man himself, they are a phenomenon within themselves, and they are masculine. When their teacher stands up and she is five-foot three and she stands up in front of a six-foot black boy who is only 12 to 13 and she has come down from Wiltshire to teach, her immediate first thought is fear, and she has got to overcome that to then start teaching this young person.

Q40 Mrs Dean: Decima, can I ask how the profile of young black people's involvement with the Criminal Justice System has changed over the period of time that you have been involved? Has it changed?

Ms Francis: I do not think it has changed, I think the times have changed. I came in 1961. We had The Rude Boys, the skinheads took over the uniform, and we were getting into trouble in much the same way. The men, the boys were huge, as they are now. They came from the Caribbean, they came with a different accent, they had more energy; we are loud, we ask questions, we can be a problem in education because we will "challenge", as they call it now. What happened is that society has changed. Where we would get a clip around the ear-hole and be sent packing or where we would be told off or the store manager would deal with you, we are now going to court. Parents often do not know their children are in trouble until they arrive at court, so there is a huge break down. I think it is not that it has changed (we were always targeted because we are different and we are obviously different, you cannot miss us, and so we are seen more), young, black men have been an issue for 500 years. You actually have no room for them. There is no space in your institutions, in your businesses, on your board meetings, and that is right across the world, so the ceilings are so low that we have this crisis. In our own countries and governments we are so poor - a lot of it is poverty - that we have not been able to thrive in this system. We do not have the schools, we do not have the shops, the businesses, et cetera, to be able to bribe our children to behave in a particular way, we have nothing to pass on to the men, and the men have been really excluded. My parents' generation were more stable. I think it is to do with organic food and sunshine and living in a black community until they were quite old, and so they knew their place.[1]

Mr Barnes: Could I add to that. I truly believe the boundaries of propriety have been blurred. I think what society sees as socially acceptable is there is no longer a demarcation there. I think what is socially accepted for one group is ostracised by another group. I am tired of reading in the newspapers of stars who are glamorised and earn lots of money through their drug taking and their bad, obnoxious behaviour, but when another group behave like that they are demonised. I do not think it is right that we live in a society that can glamorise one group, and it is a group that permeates our thoughts every day, but then there is another group who conducts that other type of activity and then they are demonised.

Q41 Bob Russell: Evidence to the Committee - you will have heard some of it this morning - has highlighted external factors such as poverty, poor housing, poor parenting and inner-city living, and the choices coming from young people in their communities themselves, as reasons for the young people's over-representation in the Criminal Justice System. Which factor out of all those do you believe to be the most important or can you not choose?

Mr Barnes: Can you read those factors out again?

Q42 Bob Russell: Yes, it is quite a list. Poverty, poor housing, poor parenting, inner-city living and choices coming from young, black people and their communities themselves?

Mr Barnes: I think there is a common denominator between all of those, and that is education, and I think that is what was omitted from your list there. I think there is a causal link between education and crime, education and poverty, and, again, poverty then breeds housing, and then there are a number of parents, when I meet parents, who sometimes do fail their children simply because they do not have the education to be able to effectively deliver parenting in the way that it should be done.

Q43 Bob Russell: You do not limit it to classroom education, you are talking about education in the community itself?

Mr Barnes: In the community as a whole, but I truly believe that the education that is conducted within the school system is a pivotal moment for a human being. It gives a child a sense of---. Let us take a child that goes to Eton. Eton does not just educate a child, Eton instils a sense of pride, a sense of belief, a sense of hope that your place in your future is defined, and that allows that young person, no matter where its path, to believe that they will be somebody. Many of the young children who I meet at times do not even believe they will be somebody. They are going through school with just a small hope that at the end they may become someone.

Q44 Bob Russell: You heard in the previous session Mr Shaun Bailey saying that what changed his life was his membership of the Army Cadet Force. From your experience, do the recognised youth organisations play any role in the communities for whom you speak today or are they absent, because Mr Bailey had to be encouraged by a family member to join?

Mr Barnes: I think that the youth organisations play an important role. I am here today and I have got Royston there and I have got Ray Lewis there from the Eastside Lewisham Academy. I think organisations such as that play an absolute pivotal role in allowing our young children to be able to understand that the future does have something for them.

Q45 Bob Russell: But are they involved in the communities at the moment?

Mr Barnes: Yes, they are involved, but the issue we discussed earlier on was, first of all, about funding. That is a serious issue, because I know a number of organisations who sometimes are forced to reinvent their model every two years to apply for a measly five or ten thousand pounds that the Government are going to give them. I went to a meeting with Ed Miliband. He was talking about the third sector. The third sector is now the voluntary and the community sector. They are doing a whole review with the Treasury. I was there. The third sector plays a massive role in public service delivery and organisations like myself, Decima and Ray Lewis play a massive part in that, but we are not given the resources to effect that change.

Q46 Bob Russell: Leading on from that, Ms Francis, your evidence has highlighted the link between school exclusion and underachievement in formal education, and I have looked into the informal education and also the offending behaviour. What comes first, the underachieving in education or the school exclusion?

Mr Barnes: Can you repeat the question?

Q47 Bob Russell: What factor comes first in the link between school exclusion and underachievement in education and offending behaviour?

Ms Francis: Our children enter secondary school a little bit ahead of everybody else. Those are your stats. So, we are not averse to formal education. If you look around the rest of the world, black children do quite well in education without resources, with no housing and poor housing. This is the first world. Come on, people. We do not have poverty on the scale of Africa or India or anything like that, and children survive and do very well in education. There is something wrong with the system, there is something wrong in the emotional way that we are being educated. The country was never designed, the education system was never designed to educate black children, it was designed for white children, and that needs to be addressed. We have a school. We are now an independent school. We are having hell trying to find how we get funding for the school because we fall through all the cracks. We are a voluntary sector group, we are now an independent school. How do we get funding? We do not fit in the stats and nobody is prepared to help us. So, we will struggle. We are black; we are used to it. Poverty: I will come back to it again and again. It comes from a lack of education, but the education that we need is about education educating us about the system in which we live. How does it work? If you do not know how to deal with the housing agencies, how to deal with employers, you do not know how the structures are set up in this country, you will always hit it very hard, especially so if you are poor and ignorant. As for the Cadets, we sent six boys to the Household Guards for a week. They worked very hard to get there and they did extraordinarily well. We had to stop a few of them wanting to join up into the Army, because that was not the intention of them going there, but the young people at FBMF asked for an Army Cadet service and we got one, so we had one in our centre, and it was really interesting to see these young people - some have ASBOS, et cetera, et cetera - being shouted, bawled at, and thoroughly enjoying it and turning up on time. Children want discipline. All children want discipline. They want to be saved and they want to belong. We are failing them. We really are failing them. How you have to do it is that education must set young, black people in context in this country. If you have no context, if you think that you have never achieved anything or contributed to the world, and you are of no use, then you have nothing to stand on, there is no point being educated, there is no point being civilised, and if there is no point, what you will do is destroy, and the destruction is happening within our community to ourselves. We have to look at that really. We need education but the educators need to be educated.

Q48 Mr Clappison: As I am sitting listening to this I am absolutely fascinated by what you have been telling us. Following on your point about discipline, you have already made the point, I think, that generally in education there are sometimes low expectations of black pupils. You have drawn the connection between that and lack of achievement. Do you think the same thing might apply to discipline generally, that there are lower expectations on discipline?

Mr Barnes: I would say definitely within the school system. I can give you a prime example. I read a report recently of how one child was making a comment about school, and he said, "I find this lesson quite boring because the teacher does not articulate properly. I even fall asleep in the back of the class and the teacher does not notice." I cannot see how a teacher can be teaching a class and see that a child is falling asleep and not notice. I believe she notices, but she expects nothing more of him, so she just leaves him because, if he is quiet, he will not disrupt the rest of the class. So, low expectation within the school system, I believe, is absolutely a key factor to why our children are not achieving because what low expectation does is it transmits that low expectation to that child. I have a saying that, good or bad, teachers get what they expect of children.

Q49 Mr Clappison: Do you agree with that?

Ms Francis: Yes.

Q50 Mr Clappison: What about the point about discipline, that there are sometimes not high enough expectations?

Ms Francis: I have walked into schools where the children are off the wall. I was not allowed to do that when I was at school. We had prefects, we had to walk down the corridor quietly, we had to think about other people. I have seen some dreadful things in schools. I will not tolerate it. I am not a teacher, but I would not tolerate it. I will not tolerate it if I see it on the streets. What I see is not just in school, it is everywhere. You have huge gangs of children on the sidewalk and you have women with their prams going into the streets and no-one is prepared to say anything to these young people: "Line up. Get out of the way", and they will declare things because they are young people, but they will do it. We adults are not doing it any more. We do not discipline children any more. It is as if adults have negated their responsibilities and they are afraid of children, which they are, and this cannot go on. Yes, we know that adults have died when they have confronted children, but how did we get to that state in 30 years?

Q51 Mr Clappison: Can I take you back to something you said a moment ago. You said that you felt the system was not well-adapted for black children. It was designed for white children, not black children. Have you any specific advice you could give us of ways you think the system could practically be better enacted?

Ms Francis: One has to look back at history, one has to start teaching the truth and one has to look at the books that we are giving children, the language that we use. We have to make it more inclusive. We have to be more inclusive. We need to go back to teaching geography well. We have to place the context of how the Caribbean and Africa made this country wealthy and made the world wealthy. We have to go back to finding the inventions of black people that have contributed to the world. We do not hear it. "Get rid of Black History Month. It is a nonsense. Just get rid of it." Celebrate everybody who has contributed well to the world. That is it. When I was teaching at MIT, I took a group of young, black people to Jamaica. They have Black History Month, but I am talking about 1990. They did not have Black History Month in Jamaica, and they laughed at the concept of Black History Month because every day was a celebration of somebody in Jamaica, black, white, or other but mainly black. The young people were absolutely amazed to come into contact with everybody being black, from the Prime Minister down to the janitor, but everybody was, and that was a revelation for them. We do not see this here. If I say to a young person, "Work hard at school, you will become something", they say, "No". "Be a good person." "Why? My parents were good. My grandparents were good. They worked hard. They followed the system. It has not got them anywhere."

Q52 Mr Clappison: On a slightly similar point, we have heard a lot of evidence today about the need for more successful parenting and you have dealt with the need for successional transition to adults in your evidence which you submitted to the Committee. I was wondering whether you had any practical suggestions which you could give or specific parenting issues which you could highlight that you feel black families need to address in order to achieve that?

Ms Francis: The young people said quite clearly many years ago, they said it to a minister at a GLA conference, "What can you do to help?" and they said, "Bring out a law that stops the men being able to leave the home", and everybody laughed, but that is how the children feel. The women have to stay; the men must stay. One has to make it possible for black men to work. They do not have enough work. There are too many of them on the street. Am I lying?

Mr Barnes: No, I would agree with you.

Ms Francis: I lived in Turkey for three years. I lived on campus. Someone came to fix my floor. There were about nine men. Three of them were swigging tea, three of them were doing the carpet and the others were talking. I said, "This is an absolute waste of people. What are you doing?" They said, "You do not understand. Our men have to work. They have to be seen as working. Their children must see them getting up and going out and coming back and bringing home the bacon", as we say here. "It is vitally important. It is important for the men. It is important for the children. It is important for the family. Men have a place." At the moment our men are like bees: once they have reproduced, they are of no use and they are dying, and our young black men are dying. They are having strokes at 28. We are having a lot of sudden deaths at 22 of people who are not always failing but who are successful. There is something so very wrong in our community that we have to dissect it, look at it and put in structures. Our parents had a different way of parenting us which involved smacking, and, yes, as in smacking with everybody, there are elements where it turns into brutalisation, but there are some children who need a short, sharp smack, because you give people a short, sharp smack when they are in a state of shock to bring them round. We have to parent our children because we are black and we know how to, and that power has been taken away from us. We have to get it back. Our children are large, boisterous and very, very different from yours and we need to now bring them back. We think differently, we behave differently, we are from different cultures and different history and we have to have the responsibility of looking after our children and we must have it back, but first the men have to work.

Mr Barnes: Can I make a brief comment. There was a study done recently, and I am going to relate this back to parents. 80% of teachers have incredible difficulty engaging with an ethnically diverse student population, and not only the teachers have difficulty in engaging with a diverse population, schools have even more difficulty in engaging with ethnic minority parents, with black parents, and every school I have ever worked with has admitted that they have a massive problem of engagement with parents. What happens is kind of an alienation, it is kind of a "them" and "us" situation. One of the things we really need to look at is strategies in which we can empower our black parents to understand more about the school system, but also to develop that tripartnership between the school, the teachers and the pupils and the way the school system engages. There was one study that said that certain schools alienate black parents and do not allow them to feel comfortable and when they invite black parents into school it is only when their children are doing something negative and wrong.

Q53 Mr Clappison: I think you have certainly given us a lot to reflect upon in our deliberations to come. The focus of our inquiry is on the Criminal Justice System. To what extent do you believe discrimination in policing and sentencing practice are responsible for the overrepresentation of young, black people in the Criminal Justice System?

Mr Barnes: I believe it has a huge effect. I have had the benefit of working with Trident, I have had the benefit of working on the Stop and Search Committee that advises the Government on overrepresentation, on black boys being stopped, and statistics show time and time again that black boys are stopped far more than white boys. It shows that back boys are far more likely to be arrested, it shows that once they go before a judge they are far more likely to get a custodial sentence than their white counterparts. In fact, there was a fantastic study done in America a few years ago and it showed under test that white policemen are far more likely to shoot black people, even when black people had a harmless banana in their hand, than they were to shoot white people. In my report I mentioned the three Ps, and one of the first Ps I mentioned was "perception". Whether it is institutional racism or subconscious bias, I believe that when a police officer profiles a criminal he has a profile, but when that profile starts from black, if he sees a young black boy walking down the road in a hoodie and there has been a crime committed, immediately this is a potential perpetrator because he fits his innate profile of what a criminal should be; so I believe perception does play a part, subconscious bias plays a massive part throughout the judicial system, the judges, the police officers, the CPS, all the way down.

Q54 Mr Benyon: A very quick question coming back from something Decima was saying earlier and something the previous witnesses mentioned about 'rap' and 'hip hop'. Back in the 1950s a number of radio stations in the US and a number of communist countries tried to ban Rock and Roll. They had enough difficulty then, and that was before the internet. Are you saying that you think a particular genre of music can be banned in modern Britain?

Ms Francis: Yes, I do. It is not the music that you are trying to ban, it is the language that they are using that needs to be changed, and it can be done. I am from St Kitts, and we had 'rappers' from America who wanted to come to the island and do that kind of abuse, which is what I call it, and they were told, "No", they cannot and if they did they would be put in the cell and be sent off, and they were, and everybody is very happy about it, thank you very much, because we do not want it. It is killing our people across the world. It is killing young, black men. We are intelligent here. You must find a way of helping people to express themselves - it is a form of expression, that is fine - but we must be mindful of the language we use. No-one can come onto the street and discriminate against me; it is against the law. You cannot call me a black blah, blah, blah, it is against the law, and in much the same way (and I almost want to, and I wish I had done), I wish I had taken one of these 'rappers' with one of their languages to court to see what would have happened, because as a black woman I feel very offended and very under attack and I can show evidence of where this kind of music has actually led to people behaving in particular kinds of ways. We need to look at it.

Mr Benyon: If it is possible to stop someone making racists comments, it must be possible to stop someone preaching hatred and violence in a similar way through music. It is probably something that is a conference in itself, and I know the Chairman wants me to move on?

Chairman: We shall come back to the issue in the course of the inquiry.

Q55 Mr Benyon: You have talked a lot about the cultural changes that we need to make. Can you give us some practical changes that you would like to see that would reduce the disproportionate representation of young, black people in the Criminal Justice System?

Ms Francis: We read the Gun Crime Curriculum. Everybody in this room needs to take a package and have a look at it and study it in detail. It should be in every single school. It looks at everything that we talk about. It starts with the myths about youth culture and violence, it looks at respect - stereotyping, prejudice, harassment - it goes through all the systems. It looks at policing, it looks at citizenship, it looks at absolutely everything that you would need to start creating for yourself a moral and ethical base on which you can stand - that is the most important thing - and it helps you to look at the society in which you live and also your responses to it and the decisions that you make, but its sole aim is as a preventative measure to make you unacceptable to people who want to get you involved in crime. That is really important. Nobody wants a nerd; nobody wants in their criminal gang somebody who is stable, talks to adults, has a good family background, has some moral and ethical values and is safe. You are not any use to them. You have to be vulnerable, you have to be feeling whatever, emotionally insecure, to be able to be manipulated in this way by criminals and get involved in that lifestyle. It needs to be placed in all schools.[2] We have a problem in that schools do not want to be dealing with gun crime or with those kinds of violent crimes because they are afraid of what their governors would say, what the population would say and their ratings. That needs to be addressed, because it is not actually the crimes that we need to be looking at, we need to be working with the young people so that they become whole, so that they do not make these unwise, unsafe and ill-choices. Camila Batmanghelidjh was quite right. This is a mental health issue. I think our community is going stark raving bonkers and I think the children are expressing it.

Mr Barnes: I am going to comment on that. I cannot commend any inquiry that looked at the overrepresentation, but unless we look at all the stakeholders in the process, I do not think we are going to come to an holistic solution. The stakeholders in this process are not just the black boys, they are not just the parents, it is the judiciary and it is the whole process that leads them. If you look at the fact that it costs 30,000 to house a youth offender for one year (approximately 25-30,000) but if you look at what is spent on stopping a young person from being excluded from school, it is way out of proportion, and so I think we need to look at all the stakeholders in the process. I mentioned in my report (it is as simple as this, and I come from a simple standpoint) the perception that society has of our young children which then leads to a perception they have of themselves. I have to be honest, you are the dominant culture here. White people are the dominant culture in this society. You write the rules, you dictate the rules, you change the rules as you will, and, as a young, black person, we have to conform within the boundaries that you set. So, if you are asking me to wash myself and then put back on a dirty shirt, I am still going to be as smelly as I was before. Why do I say this? I say that we definitely need to look at the stakeholders in the process and not only the children and parents but the dominant culture we are talking about, the teachers. The schools minister just recently announced that to become a new teacher you need to have diversity training. I think that is an excellent point that he mentioned. I know that with police officers there is an issue with racial profiling. I have been on the Stop and Search Committee. They have said it does not happen, but they are human. Of course, racial profiling happens. We are talking about the judiciary, we are talking about the judges, we are talking about the magistrates. When a magistrate has had ten black boys in the course of the last two days stand up in front of him, obviously he cannot help, as a human being, then coming to assumptions. I think when you are looking at reasons for this over-representation, I would really love to see all the stakeholders in this process be questioned or examined, because it is not a one-sided issue.

Q56 Margaret Moran: You gave us an analogy earlier about fathers who are at work which implies that young, black men need mentors, which is part of a lot of the work you are doing. How do you have those kinds of role models, those mentors, if the prevailing culture is one of drugs? As you said yourself, the drug economy is much more powerful than going out and earning the national minimum wage. How would you counter that argument?

Ms Francis: There are two things. I would like to see black schools. We do not have any. I would like to see one set up, run, staffed and managed by a whole black team that has a lot of men as teachers. I would like to see and experience authorities listening to us who work at ground level, not just patting us on the head and saying, "You are doing a good job", but actually listen to us, because we come years in advance to tell you what the trend is and what we see happening and you do not listen to us, you only listen to the professionals, and it is not acceptable. If you turn around one child - this is what people do not understand - if you turn around one severely disturbed child (let us call them that), you can turn round 40. The problem is that when you turn a child round the other agencies in the system do not back you up and support you. You turn this child around and then you say, "This child and family need to be moved from poor housing or moved to a different area", so that they can get a clean start, because if they go back to schools in that area they cannot survive. They will be forced back to their previous lifestyle. You cannot move them. This is happening even with people who have witnessed a crime. I have heard of an incident, which I am not going to say here, where they have witnessed a crime and they want to give evidence but it is too dangerous for them to stay. You will move them into inappropriate places. You cannot send them to Chelsea, or somewhere else, it is ridiculous, because they will play their music loud (culture again) and smoke their little bit of whatever, and it is not accepted and they will be kicked out, and then where will they go? There is no relationship between boroughs to be able to move children quickly and effectively and, very often, if people are moved quickly for a very short period of time, you can actually stop a lot of things happening.

Q57 Margaret Moran: Ken.

Mr Barnes: Can you repeat the question?

Q58 Margaret Moran: Essentially it is about mentoring work and how you establish effective mentoring of black boys. In some of the work you have been doing we have heard that you use peer mentors. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Mr Barnes: We talk about the role of the absent father. I suffered from that. My father left me when I was ten years old and I did not see him again until he was dying when I was 26. The socio-economic conditions that a number of these young people grow up in I was exposed to in the sense of crime and drugs. It was not necessarily something that I took a part in, but a turning point in my life was simply a man who I never saw before, and it took possibly about an hour of his time to sit down, pull me to one side and say, "Look, Ken, irrespective of the path that society says you will take, I see something different in you." Maybe I was ready to listen at that time, but all I know is that was a pivotal turning point in my life, and from then I recognised and I, again, understood from personal experience how valuable it is to have an adult in your life who can give you that direction. Mentoring and intervention programmes that we conduct are absolutely an invaluable part of the process. I work on a committee at the moment called Reach, which advises the homeless on the same issue you are talking about, and one of the issues we have is that between our organisations we are quite fragmented; there is not one place where we can go and find best practices so we do not have to continue to reinvent the wheel. I believe there needs to be some true respect and investment in organisations like ours so we can create potentially an umbrella body which can develop best practices so that in the future, down the road, we do not have to continue to develop the wheel. Again, I think our work needs to definitely start from a preventative basis. I worked within a school recently, where year ten was quite disruptive. There were ten boys. I worked with these boys over the course of six months and the headmaster (it is not in my report) reported that the whole year had actually calmed down. So, what we are talking about is creating a new mindset for our children to aspire to, and I think the work that we do will go a long way to doing that.

Q59 Margaret Moran: Can I follow that up. You referred to "us", collectively, listening to professionals. You are telling us that you know what is happening out there before anyone else, you are in there doing it, but we are interested in what works. How can we prove that what you are telling us works?

Ms Francis: We are now an Ofsted independent school. We started as a small evening programme.[3] We were funded for three years to have a mentoring programme for "hard to reach" that included everybody. We trained so many people to become mentors, but at the end of the three years, and it takes three years to persuade our community to do it, go through the training, set up the systems, the funding is stopped, end of story. We now have a bank of mentors which we try and use, but it costs money to maintain it because mentors also need to have support. We are dealing with dangerous young people.

Q60 Chairman: Because of the time, can you concentrate specifically on Margaret's point about the evaluation of the effectiveness of what you do?

Ms Francis: You can evaluate it because the reports were sent in. We have the peer mentors who are now in our programme, and out of that we have young people who have created their own work and are now being funded in the council, so there is evidence. It is there if you look for it. We have had a group of young people who have come to us from all over London and said they hate the way that they have been presented by the media and everyone else and they have created a 'positive images' group which is 50 strong and they are now trying to address what is going on.[4]

Mr Barnes: I will give you two examples of the many I can give you. Firstly, we had two young boys who worked with us three years ago. They were from a family that had split quite acrimoniously and the dad was slightly disenfranchised. We were working with the two young boys. What happened is that the dad separated and one young boy went with his dad and one young boy stayed with his mum and they were kind of intermingling, and the one young boy was not on our programme. The young boy who was on our programme, he was with us yesterday, we went to meet David Lammy MP, had a tour of the House of Commons, he is doing extremely well in his school, wants to be a lawyer, and his brother was recently arrested for armed robbery. These are two young men who were doing extremely well for the first year and, after one of them leaving our programme, the one that left our programme became disaffected. That is just one example of how effective mentoring can be. Another example, we had a young girl that came to us and she was mixing with the wrong crowd, completely dismissive of any parental control, and she went to court and she was about to be charged, but the judge deferred it because she was working with us. Nine months later they went back to court and the judge gave her a suspended sentence and actually quoted our organisation and said that, because of the intervention of our organisation, this girl's mindset had now changed which had induced a different behaviour and you could see that the path this girl was taking she was not going to take again. They are two very brief examples of the many I could give you, Decima and my colleague here, Ray Lewis, could also give you, of the kind of interventions that not only stop but also prevent from ever happening, because we must not always focus on remedial, we must also focus on preventative action.

Chairman: Can I you thank you both very much indeed. I am sorry I had to cut both of you short at various times, but we had a lot to cover. As with the first session this morning, this has been a very good start to our inquiry. We have a huge amount to think about. Thank you very much indeed.



[1] Note by witness: Her parents generation were living in a black community until late teens, as young adults, so they knew their place as men and women together.

[2] Note by witness: It also needs to be placed in community centres, detention centres, and prisons, as well as being made available to all agencies that work with young people, and for parents and faith groups.

[3] Note by witness: We return an average of 80% of boys back to mainstream education, training or work.

[4] Note by witness: Refers to Thomas Curran report on mentoring.