Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

31.  Memorandum submitted by Kids Company

  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 jobs.

    (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.

Camila Batmanghelidjh


April 2006

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