31. Memorandum submitted by
Kids Company is a charity offering support to
exceptionally vulnerable children and young people. We have been
working at street level with thousands of young black people in
the last ten years. Our client group are described as some of
the most challenging, yet we receive in excess of 95% self-referrals
from children who have heard about us on the street.
In all the years that I have worked with young
people, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number who
have "chosen" to be criminals. The majority of the young
people who turn to us resort to crime as a survival mechanism.
I have noticed several factors which contribute to this anti-social
solution. These could be summarised as follows:
(a) The absence of a competent carer
in the child's life, who can navigate the path to services and
advocate on behalf of the child. This results in the child often
being denied necessary services and early intervention. If the
young person presents with complex needs, an impoverished local
authority is more likely to "lose" them from their services
and there is no one to return the child back into the system.
Poor early intervention leads to a loss of a sense of citizenship
in the child. Society was never there when they needed it, so
they perceive themselves as owing society nothing.
(b) Young people presenting with specific
learning difficulties, ie dyslexia, are not helped quickly or
robustly within their primary schools, so by the time they reach
secondary, they feel de-skilled, ashamed and therefore remove
themselves from education or are excluded.
(c) Use of street drugs, especially
cannabis from an early age, is having a negative impact on young
people's motivation, but also their mental health. In a state
of withdrawal they are often very aggressive and can get into
trouble more easily. Yet there are barely any drug rehab programmes
for young black people, as most of the programmes are filled up
with adult middle-class addicts, who are articulate enough to
make use of group therapy. Young black people often do not do
well in rehabilitation centres and get excluded from them.
(d) A general lack of respect for the
police results in young people believing that they must distribute
justice themselves within their own communities. The burden often
falls on young males to defend their mothers, younger siblings
and sisters or partners. Adolescent boys take on this role, because
fathers are not present.
(e) Violence becomes a currency of survival
in neighbourhoods where there is a prevalence of violence. If
a young person is not violent, they risk being victimised. Youth
offending programmes are not robust enough in picking up and dealing
with the most prolific and violent offenders. Consequently these
individuals become powerful perverse leaders, whose level of violence
commands violence in defence.
(f) Benefit levels are too low, leaving
young people jobless and impoverished. They often cannot access
(g) A combination of poverty, ruptured
early attachments to maternal carers, absence of fathers and excessive
exposure to violence results in many young people being traumatised
due to chronic neglect and abuse. The combination of poor attachments
and relentless fear creates a poor neuro-physiological status
in the young person. This neuro-chemical sensitivity results in
the young person being hyper-aroused, excessively alert and prone
to being triggered into violence and fury. The lack of self-soothing
capacities results in the young person being unable to calm down,
control their behaviours or anticipate consequences. This is not
about a moral flaw in young people. It is about a psychosocial
vulnerability to reacting violently brought about by poor care.
Young people suffering from mental health distress are not offered
appropriate help. Care leavers and those living in hostels on
their own become lonely and depressed.
Poor attachment and family abuse create psychosocial
vulnerabilities in young people, who then find the appropriate
cultural and social tools for violence. The use of these tools
is not based on thoughtful choice. It is an act of desperation.
The young person is always the individual who is penalised for
what in effect is a systemic flaw. Poor care by adults, both biological
and corporate parents propels the young person into criminal activity
as a means of survival.