Imagine a housing estate with a little park next to it.

The estate has “no ballgames” and “no skateboarding” notices all over it.

The park is just an empty space.

And then imagine you are 14 years old, and you live in a flat four storeys up.

It’s the summer holidays and you don’t have any pocket money.

That’s your life.

What will you get up to today?

Take in a concert, perhaps? Go to a football game? Go to the seaside?

No — you’re talking £30 or £50 to do any of that.

You can’t kick a ball around on your own doorstep.

So what do you do?

You hang around in the streets, and you are bored, bored, bored.

And you look around you.

Who isn’t bored?

Who isn’t hanging around because they don’t have any money?

Who has the cars, the clothes, the power?

Of course, not everyone who grows up in a deprived neighbourhood turns to crime — just as not everyone who grows up in a rich neighbourhood stays on the straight and narrow.

Individuals are responsible for their actions — and every individual has the choice between doing right and doing wrong.

But there are connections between circumstances and behaviour.

It’s easy to feel pessimistic …

But I think that’s the wrong response.

We can’t just give up in despair.

We’ve got to believe we can do something about the terrible problems of youth crime and disorder.

We’ve got be optimistic about young people, otherwise we’ll forever be dealing with the short-term symptoms instead of the long-term causes.

— Then Conservative leader David Cameron in a speech to the Centre for Social Justice founded by Iain Duncan Smith, which later became know as his “hug a hoodie” speech


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Peter Fray

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