Examination of Witnesses (Questions 61
TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2006
Q61 Chairman: Good morning. Thank
you very much for joining us this morning to give evidence in
the second session of the Committee's inquiry. Could we start
by asking each of our witnesses to introduce themselves and their
organisations for the record, and then we will get underway.
Reverend Isaacs: Good morning,
everyone. My name is Reverend Les Isaacs. I am the Director of
a charitable organisation called Ascension Trust that has been
running for 14 years. Over the last five years we have embarked
on an initiative, as well, called Street Pastors. That was two
years in the making and is now three years up and running. We
started with 18 people, going out on the streets from 10 o'clock
at night until four in the morning to engage young people, in
particular, in two boroughs in London. We are over 600 people
in 11 boroughs in London and seven cities across the country.
Reverend Obunge: My name is Nims
Obunge and I happen to be a Pastor of a church called Freedom's
Ark and the Chief Executive of an organisation called The Peace
Alliance. The initiative is based around working with community
voluntary/statutory/faith organisations, trying to ensure that
there is a holistic response to challenges of criminal justice
in our community. I am also fortunate to be the Acting Chair for
the London Criminal Justice Board advisory group, and oversee
knife crime in that advisory group capacity.
Q62 Chairman: Thank you both very
much indeed. We are grateful to you for coming this morning. This
is the second evidence session we have had in our inquiry into
Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System. As two people
with the jobs you have, could I ask you what your reaction was
when you heard that a select committee of the House of Commons
was having an inquiry into young black people and the criminal
Reverend Obunge: About time. My
gut feeling was "About time", and the feeling that it
has been overlooked, undermined, underplayed and has not been
given the effective attention it needs. I suppose in local communities
it is more obvious. The dream had been that the centre would pick
it up and do something.
Reverend Isaacs: My thought in
response was: "I hope this is not just a piece of academic
exercise." I felt and hoped that something tangible would
come out of this to help us to address the mammoth problems we
have in our local communities.
Q63 Chairman: I asked the question
because some of the people who have responded to our inquiry have
questioned our motives in even having an inquiry with this sort
of title, so it is pleasing to have your support. Without asking
you to go into the issues in detail, because we will try to cover
everything in our question session, if this inquiry is of importance,
what for each of you are the key issues you would like to see
us discuss when we produce our reportnot necessarily setting
out exactly what we should include but what are the issues we
need to make sure we touch on?
Reverend Obunge: Could you forgive
me, for, being a minister, I am quite outspoken and very unhypocritical.
I am a bit challenged by the present company, the Committee, because
I do not see any black person on it. That, in itself, is a reflection
of the challenge we have in the black community. If I am giving
evidence, I had hoped to see somebody from my community sat with
yourselves who would be able to tune thingsand I am not
talking about somebody sitting at the back of yourselves, but
sitting in the centre. That is why I say you need to forgive me
being outspoken; it is just that is the way things are. I already
feel challenged at the moment, but I would like to see that maybe
the Committee reviews itself first of all, before it reviews ourselves,
because if you are not able to do that effectively we will not
be able to get what we are looking for and we will end up with
a piece of paper that might be a potential tick in the box, a
tokenistic exercise, that might not have a sustainable future.
That would be my key thing. I would like an internal review before
an external examination.
Reverend Isaacs: I would say "Amen"
Q64 Chairman: What you raise is a
much wider issue, because we reflect very much the makeup of the
House of Commons
Reverend Obunge: I understand.
Q65 Chairman: so these things
are not entirely within our gift. But you have answered the point
very frankly and we are grateful to you for that. You know, as
we do, that the statistics show an over representation of young
black people in crime in the criminal justice system. Do you think
that is reflecting a real phenomenon, that there is more crime
being committed by young people and more people in the criminal
justice system, or is it, as some people suggested to us, a quirk
of what the statistics are showing usperhaps, about poverty
or something of that sortrather than what is happening
to young black people?
Reverend Isaacs: I think there
is overemphasis on young black men in jail. But the fact isas
I visit jails up and down the countrythere is a very high
disproportion of young black men in our institutions, hence it
has, in one sense, demonised young black boys and men in the public's
opinion. Every year I meet up with literally hundreds of black
boys and girls who have accomplished their A-levels and are actively
engaging in seeking further education at universities, yet they
never get a glimpse in the public domain or media. I am very concerned.
I also think our courts too readily hand out sentences to our
young boys, rather than looking for alternatives within the community
to help our young boys go through the most difficult adolescent
period. I think there is a lot that can be done, there is a lot
that needs to be done, and far too many of these boys are given
custodial sentences whereas I believe we could do something different.
Reverend Obunge: I think the first
encounter a young black person has with the criminal justice system
is most likely with the police. That is the critical encounter.
When we look at stop and search rates, the facts speak for themselves.
The black community is more likely to be stopped and searched.
I have sat on the MPA Stop and Search Scrutiny Panel and the Home
Office stop and search Community Panel and the statistics are
very high: up to six times more likely in some cases than their
white counterparts. When that first encounter is going to take
place with the police, black young people already feel persecuted.
They already feel that they are going to be targeted, so there
is already a reaction to that initial encounter, and in some cases
it is not crime. I am not denying the fact that there are some
criminals within our community but the fact is that in some cases
that criminality is based on persecution. I think we have to look
at both sides of the coin. We need to look at the context of stop
and search and we also need to explore issues around the drugs
trade. So, yes, there are some concerns around how the drugs trade
within the black community or gun crime within the black community
seems higher than in most other communities. I think you would
have seen recently one of the gentlemen giving evidenceand
I am sure we will speak about it later on todayin the context
that there is potential that there are some middle-class white
folks who seem to enjoy the drugs trade and enjoy our drugs, and
so they encourage black people to get engaged in the drugs trade.
Q66 Chairman: You are both leaders
of your communities. In your communities is the current discussion
primarily about why some of your young people are getting involved
in crime or is the discussion primarily about this experience
of your young people at the hands of the criminal justice system?
It may be unfair asking you to choose between those two but I
would be interested to know how the balance of the discussion
Reverend Isaacs: Both of those
issues are very much high on the radar and the agenda of our communities.
There is always discussion about how many of our young, particularly
boys/men, are in jail. There is also discussion about the issues
of why it is that our young boys, in particular, find it very
easy to find themselves involved with the drugs industry and also
within the gang culture and the crime culture. Those discussions
are never far from the table. It is there in the council flats;
it is there in the middle-class agenda. We are always talking
about those things.
Reverend Obunge: Why do we talk
about it? I think that is important. Why are we having the discussions
about overrepresentation? Why are we having this dialogue? The
dialogue is there because there is a frustration. This just did
not start today. We are looking at cause and effect. If we look
at the context of employment realityunderemployment, underachievementall
those issues act as mitigating factors within the black community.
In my submission to you I identified some of the discussions,
and we cannot deny that there are discussions and debates around
parenting. There are discussions and debates even amongst ourselves.
We need to look inside and say: "What else can we do to support
our young black people?" There are big debates around what
our responsibilities are to our young people and the breakdown
of the family structure, but, at the same time, you realise there
is this pressure from the lack of opportunities that exist out
there and the discrimination and potential racial issues, racism
in some contextswhich, cutting to the chase, would be the
right word in some casesfor our young black people. That
tension exists and I think a lot of our young people are in the
criminal justice system not so much because they want to be in
there but it is about opportunities. There is a big issue on opportunities.
Q67 Mr Benyon: Both of your organisations
are involved with combating gun crime. Gun crime affects a lot
of different communities but there is a perception or a reality
that it affects black communities and young black males in a much
more emphasised way, both as victims and perpetrators. What success
have you had in the work you have done? In which direction would
you point this Committee towards successfully combating gun crime,
and how it can affect your communities for the better?
Reverend Isaacs: I am always very
careful about using the word "success". The strategy
and policy within our organisation is that it has to be between
10-15 years because this problem is endemic, it is long-term.
It is not a one-year project; it is a long-term initiative that
we have to work on. That is the first point. The second point
is this: we recognise, we constantly have at the forefront, that
if we are going to have some tangible bearing and outcome within
this issue we have to work and think and have a strategy for us
to think about a generation plus. We have started by saying, "Let's
just go out and engage people." That is why we looked at
the whole issue of when crime happened. We looked at the 24-hour
clock with the police and we realised that in the evenings certain
things happened. We felt that we had to go out there and get into
their minds, build relationships, build trust, and let young people
know that we are not there for them because we are getting something
out of it but we are there for them because we are genuinely concerned
for them. In some of our boroughs we have seen street crimepreventative
of a major incident happeningreduced by 90%. By 75% we
have seen incidents reduce in some of the areas we are working
with. People have even rung us up and said, "Look, I've got
a gun. Could you come and get it from me. I don't want this lifestyle
any more." We are creating the space for people to say, "If
I want to cry out, who do I cry out to and who can help me out
of that?" When we talk about success, we realise that there
are many, many more guns out there and it is not one or two guns
that we want; we want as many as possible. That is how we are
seeing things happening and not only with guns but drugs as well.
People are saying to us, "Pastor, I've got this. I'm involved.
Please, help me. I don't want to do it any more."
Reverend Obunge: The word "success"
remains relative. I sit also within the advisory capacity as a
member of the Trident Independent Advisory Group and we are very
careful when we use that word "success", even though
we see, sometimes, our figures go down. You know, one incident
is one incident too many. All of a sudden that impacts on the
community. The reason I started getting involved in social action,
as it were, was because I was, as a minister, being called to
bury kids who had been shot or stabbed in our communities. We
got to that moment where we said, "We are speaking so often
at their deaths, but what do we do to keep them alive?" As
a result of that, a raft of campaigns have taken place and these
campaigns challenge young people. We are still engaged in that.
In my organisation, we developed a 90-minute DVD and a manual
for schools/teachers called Untouchable, which has been
used around the country. Untouchable is one of the numerous
study materials in the toolkit to help young people or to deter
them from gun crime. My concern is more around an exit strategy.
As a typical example: I had a young man with a gun come over to
me. He wanted to come out. He wanted to leave that culture. But
when I tried to encourage him, support him out of it, I realised
that there was no exit strategy by the Government to help a person
out from there. The police did not have the strategy because the
police were looking for him to report, to rat out on his community
in order to get protective measures because he knew his life was
at risk. He was not ready to spill the beans, and because he was
not ready to spill the beans he was not given protective custody.
Therefore, you find such a person still stuck in that environment
because there is no support structure. I have raised this with
the Commissioner of Police, I have raised it with Hazel Blears,
I have raised it with very senior Home Office officials and nobody
has been able to identify effective exit strategies for such young
people. We need to think effectively of exit strategies for people
who are so vulnerable in their community.
Q68 Mr Benyon: Could you get a copy
of Untouchable to the Committee?
Reverend Obunge: Without a doubt.
We can get it, and the manual.
Q69 Mr Benyon: The previous evidence
session heard advice from a number of people involved in social
work that we should look very closely at the cultural factors
that are drawing people towards such things as gun and knife crime,
and, in particular, rap and hip-hop music. Do you have a view
Reverend Obunge: I think you need,
first of all, not to use gun and knife crime collectively. That
is dangerous. In reality knife crime does not necessarily disproportionately
exist within the black community; it exists also within the white
Q70 Mr Benyon: Both crimes exist
within both communities.
Reverend Obunge: Holistically
combining the notions is a bit of a challenging point. I think
it is important that we know that. On the issue around whether
hip-hop music encourages gun crime, I think we have had this debate
at the Home Office round-tableand, at that time, dare I
say, the Chair was also involved as Home Office Minister. It was
clear that that was not so much an issue. I mean, it is a cultural
issue, music is cultural, but young people do not feel per
se that that is the single mitigating factor resulting in
gun crime. I think we need to look at the culture that exists
at this present time amongst young black people and the issues
around deprivation, not just music. You see, it is so easy to
look at music and not consider the real factors of deprivation:
underachievement, lack of opportunities. Music is such a minor
issue, it is a blip compared to the more serious issues that I
feel the Government needs to be looking at. Leave the music alone
and let us deal with the more serious issues.
Q71 Mr Benyon: I have one final question
about gender. We are obsessed in this report by young black males.
Are we right to be? Why is there a difference between young black
males and young black females?
Reverend Isaacs: I think there
are some very important factors. One is the very high proportion
of absent fathers. These young men are crying out for fathers.
I walked into a room at 9.30 one eveningan aunty rang me
up and she said, "Come and speak to my nephew." I got
there at 9.30. Grandma was there, the boy's mother was there.
The first thing he said to me was, "I'm surrounded by all
women. I have no men around me as a model." Here is a 19-year
old young man, staying in his house all day, leaving at 9.00 at
night. That has had an enormous impact on our young men, young
boys. You have young boys who sometimes are living with their
step-mothers and tension is there. They are looking for that affirmation;
they are looking for that identity; they are looking for that
role model. They do not find it in the home and they go out and
they meet a group of men or young boys who are involved in devious
activities, they find affirmation. They get what they want, whether
it is a mobile phone or an i-Pod or trainers. They get that protection.
In return, they do all sorts of things. You can see that because
of the lack of the stability in that fatherly figure, that male
role in the home, they come to the point where they sort of yearn
for it. We tend to find that it leads them more often than not
to the wrong part of activities within the community. Rather than
being constructive, they go to a destructive part of the community.
From my point of view, whether it is London, Birmingham, Manchester,
St Paul's or Nottingham, we have seen the same thing, that, where
the father is absent, the more the vulnerability for young boys,
in particular, to get involved in crime.
Reverend Obunge: Added to that
would be the reality that we are dealing with something that is
endemic. We are dealing with the absence. Again, I have to get
to the core issue: when we talk about role models or absent fathers,
we are talking about men that young black people can look up to.
The media gives us notions of a certain model of who the black
person is, yet we have some very successful black people in the
corporate world, some very successful black people in other spheres
of British life. Those black folks do not really feature quite
often. When black people do not see themselvesthere is
something called black prideit is about: Where is the pride?
There is no sense of pride. We are not building that image, unfortunately.
I know that the present Government is talking about Britishness,
but one of the things is: Does a young black person see Britishness
as involving themselves? Does that also celebrate blackness? If
Britishness does not celebrate blackness, then the fact is that
there is a point of frustration with that. When you look at the
black boys, they are fightersand when I say fighters, I
am not talking about the fighters on the street. As a black man,
we are fighters in our community, we want to achieve, and if we
are not going to achieve in one area we will achieve in another
area. But one thing is evident: we have to try to achieve. I just
feel it is unfortunate that we might have young black people involved
in a lot of criminality, but this Committee needs to understand
that even amongst black Africans, who are highly educated, unemployment
opportunities exist and so therefore they resort to other forms
Q72 Mrs Cryer: From what the Reverend
Isaacs said, there does appear to be a problem of young men growing
up in all-female households. I think you are saying there is a
lack of role models for them. Are you, as church people, doing
anything to encourage more permanent relationships between men
and women so that they bring these young men up jointly? Is there
anything that government or agencies can do to encourage more
families where there are two parents? I recognise that this is
a problem in other communities, not just black communities, but
from what you have said there does seem to be a particular problem
Reverend Isaacs: Unfortunately,
I think the Government has sent mixed messages. We say to people
that long-term commitment is better than co-habiting. We emphasise
that strongly. We do not condemn or judge people, but we encourage
people in terms of marriage, in terms of: "Listen, this is
a relationship that should last until life." Secondly, we,
as a church, a faith group, have particularly developed mentoring.
We have an ongoing programme of recruiting men and mentoring men,
so that men from the church can adopt a young man in the church
or outside the church. We have a programme where we are even adopting
men in prison, so we are meeting them six months before they come
out of jail, mentoring them in prison, helping them to work through
what is life after prison, then mentoring them after prison and
seeking to help them educationally. But we recognise that it is
one thing mentoring the men who are already in the institution
or involved in crime, but it is another thing to mentor young
boys who need a very high level of commitmenta very high
level of commitment. We are constantly looking at that. For instance,
I myself am mentoring two young boys. That is part of my other
jobs and commitment that I have. I have to say to myself that
it is not a nine-to-five mentoring. I am quite willing to meet
up with one of my lads at 11 o'clock, wherever he is, and just
spend that two hours with him. We are constantly working on that,
emphasising that, coming up with initiatives that would help us
to help young people, particularly young boys, on the street.
But, again, we come to the point of frustration, where we recognise
we could talk to a young lad and say, "Education is important"
but then, when we begin to help that young guy and talk about
the importance of education, we realise we cannot access the school
to say to the school, "Listen, we have been talking with
Johnny, this is the support he needs." Part of what we say
to the school, is "When something does occur, please touch
base with us, because we understand the issues with Johnny. Let
us be part of the solution, rather than saying, `Johnny has been
bad, let's exclude him, let's get him off our books,' and then,
when Johnny is out of school, because we are not with him for
the seven hours that day, Johnny finds someone else or a gang
that he is involved with." All the good work that we could
be doing with Johnny in the evenings, a couple of hours a week,
could be just thrown out because of the lack of cooperation and
strategy between us, the school, and, may I say, the police as
Chairman: I am going to move us on, if
I may. We will come back to this issue a little later on.
Q73 Mrs Dean: Earlier in the questions,
there was reference made to perceived differential in the use
of stop and search. Are there any other ways in which you believe
that there is different treatment by the police and criminal justice
system which might be to blame for the young black person's over-representation
in the system?
Reverend Obunge: I think the Reverend
Les Isaacs also was clear about the court systems. I asked a question
quite recently at the London Criminal Justice Board asking for
whether there had been a proper study of the courts as to whether
various benches seem to disproportionately send certain black
people in, and that study has not been done. I think that study
needs to be done, so we identify whether magistrates or judges
can be brought to be accountable for the way they might potentially
criminalise young people. There is work to be done in all tiers
of the criminal justice system; dare I say it, within the prisons;
and within the Probation Service. The full structure within the
criminal justice system needs to be looked at. In London, more
recently, Lee Jasper, who will be giving evidence today, and I
sit on that board and in every tier of decision-making within
the criminal justice system we are asking questions about race.
That is being looked at now a bit more effectively. I feel there
is a lot of work that has not yet been done, so I cannot give
total evidence on that, but I know that there is a gap of analysis.
Q74 Mrs Dean: Reverend Obunge, in
your evidence you suggest that the media exaggerates young black
people's involvement in crime. You also highlight a perceived
under-reporting of black young people as victims. Can you give
examples of specific incidents or types of incident that you feel
have been under- or over-reported?
Reverend Obunge: I will give a
very clear example: on a day I was meant to be speaking on the
BBC on a particular news programme, I met an editor of a well-known
tabloid. There was a shooting that happened in the black community
and he basically said to meoff the record, not on airthat
amongst the media they do not pick up on the issues of the black
community shooting themselves because it just goes on, and so
there is no interest any more amongst the media. It was blatant.
He was not apologetic; it was just a statement of fact. There
is no need to name and shame but when that statement was made
it was a clear indication of the thinking of the tabloids. More
recently, just a few days ago, I made a call to another tabloid
newspaper on a particular issue and I made reference to certain
black issues, and they said, "Look, our readers are not interested
in this. Because our readers are not interested, therefore we
have no need to pick it up." Essentially, they were saying:
"Our readers are mostly white folks and the black itinerary
does not fit in here."
Q75 Mrs Dean: Are there incidents
of over-reporting that you could highlight, where the perpetrator,
if you like, of the crime has been a black person?
Reverend Obunge: My experience
and the perceptionand sometimes perception is more real
than realityis that there is that image: when it is of
having something negative going on in the black community, that
is very highly reported. One of the people working in my organisation
is Winston Silcott. I employed him when he came out of prison.
I had folks from the tabloid sneaking into my offices. We had
all sorts of negative reporting around him and another black fellow
that we had working in our organisation. Winston, by the way,
still works with us. But I felt that the media would negatively
portray a black man but not positively portray a black person.
That is really the angle that I was coming at.
Q76 Mrs Dean: Reverend Isaacs, do
you want to add to that?
Reverend Isaacs: Yes, I think
there is, on the ground, a mistrust of the media in terms of how
it portrays us but there is also still a mistrust of the police.
These young men go on to commit crime because they feel that if
they go through the route of the police they will not get justice.
You have a culture of young people saying, "I will deal with
it myself." So there is a young man being shot, the police
go in to interview him on his bed and he says nothing: "Nothing
to say." What he is really saying is, "We will deal
with it ourselves." I think there needs to be greater emphasis
on the police to work with the black community, in terms of the
church and other groupswho are doing some fantastic workand
say, "How do we break this vicious cycle?" Where there
is confidence, there is trust, and we could stop people committing
these revenge killings over very trivial things. I highlight a
case last weekend. A mother said to me, "My son was beaten
uphim and five other guysand taken to hospital.
Please could you come and see him because someone has offered
him a piece"and a piece is a gun. "They want
revenge. They have no confidence to go to the police. They feel
that they can't because they may become a victim and subject to
inquiry rather than the other people who committed this crime
against them." It is those kinds of things that I think we
need to look at seriously and to ask those questions of the police.
Are we all doing enough to ensure that this cycle is broken? Finally,
it has been said on numerous occasions that, whilst our Government
is fighting the war in Baghdad and Afghanistan, there is a small
war taking place within the black community which nobody seems
to give a damn about. There is that feeling on the ground within
Q77 Gwyn Prosser: Reverend Obunge,
you have listed nine or 10 causes of this overrepresentation in
your written evidence. I would like to look at twoand you
have touched on them already this morning. To what extent would
you say this overrepresentation might be due to the issues of
deprivation and poverty as compared to perhaps others who say
young black people might be taking an active choice in their lifestyle.
There might be a connection between the two, and there probably
is, but if you were saying which weighs the heaviest in causing
this what would be your answer?
Reverend Obunge: A young black
person living in Hadley Wood is not likely to be involved with
some of the issues that you might find for a young black person
living in some areas of Brixton or Tottenham. That, in itself,
should clarify some of the issues. If we look at the type of person,
if we go into our prisonsI do go into the prisonsand
you look at the representation of the black people there and you
look at their parental background and their geographical background,
there are certain things that are quite obvious: where they live;
certain experiences they have had. You will find out that, in
some cases, once their brother has been involved in the criminal
justice system it is more likely these are the ones that will
be involved, because it exists within their family structures.
I believe that there is a major issue around communities that
do not feel the regeneration impacting on their local families.
I am one who believes that the Government does need to take a
bit of, should we call it, affirmative action around those areas,
or positive action, targeted at such communities. In my borough
that is what I am also suggesting, that we target those communities,
we target those communities where there is deprivation. In my
evidence, I stated, when sitting on the Crime and Disorder Reduction
Board for my borough, hearing an analyst walk into the room and
say, "If we dealt with the black young people"and
I was the only black man in that room at that time"we
will solve over 50% of our crime problems in this borough."
Essentially, when you think about that and an analyst makes that
blunt statement, need I say any more?
Q78 Gwyn Prosser: Indeed. You also
say there is a perception or even a reality that young black people
come to school-leaving age believing there are no jobs out there
and that the job market has completely failed them. To what extent
is that the reality? Is there a danger of that perception becoming
a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Reverend Isaacs: I was out one
night in Southwark. Accompanying me was Fiona MacTaggart, who
had decided to come out to see what we were doing. She was going
to come out for about an hour. It was after ten, so she was scheduled
to leave us after 11. She was there until after 12.30. We met
a group of boys, something like 15-20 of them, and one guy with
his hoody and everything. We got talking to that young boy and
it turned out he had done his GCSEs, he has A-levels, and when
we spoke to himand we spoke to him for over an hourhe
was frustrated, he felt that there was nowhere for him to go.
A bright, intelligent boy, but there he was, at 12.30 of a morning,
on the street with a group of boys who were going nowhere. That
is the cycle that we have to break, in terms of saying: "If
you are bright and you have achieved something, there is somewhere
for you to go and there is something for you to achieve."
Just last night alone I was speaking to a councillor who rang
me up because of one of her boys. She said, "I've spent just
a few months with this boy and what we did within that few months
was to teach him to spell his name. He has all the ability and
potential but there is no one to spend time with him." If
we could overcome that, we could see a major reduction in criminal
activities amongst these young boys.
Reverend Obunge: I really believe
that there are some things that can be done here, if targets were
set for the private sector and for the public and voluntary sectors
in relation to providing employment opportunities and effective
training to enable black people into the employment system. The
reality is that there is some work being done but I do not believe
it is enough. It is not about perception; it is the reality. I
have been to many educational conferences and there are very few
black people who are in senior management. The Commission for
Racial Equality recently did a study and it was indicative to
the fact that a black person on the same management tier as a
white person needs to work about five to six times harder than
that white counterpart. You do not find even promotions, and if
you do not find even promotions within that then those black young
people are not going to feel there is a future for them.
Q79 Gwyn Prosser: Coming back to
the bright young man with the qualifications, would you tell us
a bit more about that. Had he tested the market? Had he made applications
for jobs and been rejected? Or had he built up this perception
in his mind: "There's nothing out there because my brother
didn't get a job"?
Reverend Isaacs: He said he has
made numerous applications to companies. He said: "Not even
a reply I've received." He was absolutely frustrated by that.
I think it is that frustration. Many of them are saying, "What's
the use?" For instance a father rang me up and I went to
his record shop to meet with his son. He said, "I'm very
concerned." After speaking to the son for three-quarters
of an hour, I said, "What are you good at?" He said,
"I like painting." I said, "Okay, if I get you
a job, how would that work?" There goes the challenge, because
if you are going to do an apprenticeship in painting or plumbing
and you cannot read, you are unable to go to college and to fulfil
the basic study that you need in terms of theory. I was speaking
to a contract company. They said, "We will do supplementary
education for them." Again it is to find the people who will
help these young boys to go on a crash course within their context.
They do not feel comfortable going to a big college. Let us help
them to learn to spell their name, the phonics. Let us help them
with the basics and then help them to go on to college. Then they
will want to go one day a week. We saw that companies were taking
on these lads, who were fantastic painters, but when it came to
the college work, one day a week, they struggled and so their
drop-out rate was very high. If they drop out and they are not
doing that, they will find themselves doing something else. There
are those things that we have to look at seriously, so that we
can constantly encourage these young boys, young men to go to
the next stage.
Gwyn Prosser: Thank you.
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