“HOW did it come to this?”, you ask (Times Notebook, August 18), following the riots. But your correspondent accepts the line the politicians love to use – which clears them of all responsibility. Of course, better parenting would give kids a better start in life. Of course better teaching would give kids a better start in life. But the government’s cuts are bearing heaviest precisely on these areas of social provision.
The parenting support service, Sure Start, has been slashed. Youth clubs are being closed. Much has been made of a rioter being a teaching assistant. Disgraceful, but isn’t it a disgrace that teaching is being degraded by the use of assistants on poverty wages, instead of by fully trained teachers?
We want the kids off the streets, so the government takes the Educational Maintenance Allowance away from teenagers.
A fifth of youngsters cannot find work, and this is an average. In affluent areas youngsters without work are funded by their parents to pursue higher education, in areas of inner-city deprivation this is a rarity. Inner-city jobs are casual, hopeless and scarce. Youth unemployment in those areas has clearly reached crisis proportions.
And then there’s the example we set. Cabinet Ministers who’ve fiddled their housing allowances to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds, have the effrontery to come back on the box, lecturing these kids on morality. The crisis is in society, not just these rioters. The Welfare State is being dismantled in health, education, social provision. The nation’s assets are being handed over wholesale to the Private Finance Initiative profiteers. Massive bonuses are handed over to immensely rich financiers, yet when they fail, they are too big to fall, so the nation picks up the tab. I’m all for a responsible attitude to the needs of others, and for a crime free country, but responsibility lies where power resides, in the city, which appears to dictate government policy. When those people pay their taxes, stop fiddling their allowances, and fund social provision instead of feathering the nests of their financial accomplices, then we might listen to their moral lectures.