I was incredibly fortunate to get drawn for my second PMQ just a week after the first (watch that one here). I asked Boris Johnson if he would reverse the Tories’ 70% cuts to youth services over the last decade. He claimed his government has “invested in youth services”. If he sincerely believes £1 billion in cuts is investment, that explains a lot about the Tory levelling up agenda.
We are experiencing a knife crime epidemic in London, where we have lost as many as 50 people so far this year. A staggering 17 of them were young people including, tragically, 17-year-old Denardo Samuels-Brooks right here in Streatham last month.
The causes of crime are complex and manifold but it’s clear that poverty and deprivation are both key drivers. The pandemic has only added to the factors that have driven crime up over the last ten years: rising youth unemployment, youth services seeing income strangled by recession, and the mental duress of lockdown are all adding more pressure. I’m really concerned that we are going to see more and more people needlessly losing their lives and heightened violence on our streets with the summer approaching.
The most immediate things we need to look at include creating social outlets, improving mental health services and ensuring better job opportunities for young people. We also need to create a stronger culture of community policing, where policing is something that is done with people, not to them.
I recently wrote about youth safety for the South London Press.