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Youngsters blame poverty for riots says survey


Young people believe poverty is one of the key reasons behind the August riots, according to a new survey.

Behind the Riots, a survey commissioned by The Children's Society, found most 13 to 17-year-olds and adults believed that a reason why people became involved in the trouble that blighted the country was "to get goods and possessions they couldn't afford to buy".

The charity polled 1,004 adults and 1,077 13 to 17-year-olds from across the UK in an online survey between October 3 and November 10.

It said they gave a mixed picture overall, with most choosing more than one reason why the riots happened.

But 57% of 13 to 17-year-olds and 66% of adults thought people became involved to get goods and possessions they could not afford to buy.

Some 49% of 13 to 17-year-olds and 63% of adults thought they became involved "just for fun".

And 47% of 13 to 17-year-olds and 53% of adults thought they felt pressure to join in from others taking part.

Young people and adults surveyed - particularly 17 to 24-year-olds - felt children and young people would be viewed more negatively after the riots.

The report also found the majority of adults and children (51% and 56% respectively) believed the Government should be doing more to support young people since the riots.

It also showed one in seven children and young people thought they had fewer prospects for their immediate future following the riots, while 17-year-olds were most likely to cite Government cuts as a reason for the disorder, and also were most likely to say more Government support was needed after it (67%).

The findings come as Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the riots might have been avoided if police had "appreciated the magnitude of the task".

His comments come after Home Secretary Theresa May called for people to stop making excuses for those involved, saying that August's riots were simply about money and "instant gratification".

But The Children's Society's policy director Enver Solomon said: "This research shows that Theresa May is out of step with the majority of children and adults in this country when she said on Wednesday the riots were about instant gratification.

"Most people believe that the riots were caused by a whole range of factors - and poverty and material disadvantage are at the heart of it.

"Material well-being cannot be overlooked as a significant issue affecting young people today.

"We know from our work that there is a significant link between a child's material deprivation and their overall life satisfaction.

"Clearly, tackling this is crucial to avoid further unrest among children and young people.

"It is equally worrying to see just how many children and young people, already battling very negative views of themselves as a group, felt perceptions of them had got worse since the riots.

"Our findings show that there is agreement between adults and children that the Government should be providing more support to young people.

"This sends a clear message to central and local government that the public would like to see more positive activities on offer to children rather than a reduction in out of school youth provision.

"With the considerable challenges now facing children and young people in early adulthood, the case for investing in youth support must be taken seriously."

The use of water cannon and rubber bullets by police in future riots was also challenged by the committee.

The MPs said it would have been "inappropriate as well as dangerous to have employed water cannon and baton rounds".

"We agree with our witnesses, including senior police officers, that such use could have escalated and inflamed the situation further," they said.

"The lessons learnt in the past in Northern Ireland over such equipment should not be lost.

"Water cannon, in particular, are an indiscriminate weapon and could have affected bystanders, as well as rioters."

The MPs also said they saw no reason to give further powers, such as enabling them to impose curfews or remove face coverings.

"We cannot recommend any increase in police powers as a result of the August disturbances without seeing specific evidence of a need for such powers and none came our way during the inquiry."

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, said the report highlighted "the need for sufficient numbers of police officers who can be called upon as and when they are needed".

Simon Reed, the federation's vice-chairman, said: "The very nature of policing is that it is unpredictable and an emergency service.

"We need to ensure that the police service has the resilience, police officer numbers, training and equipment to deal with whatever is thrown at it; this is the very basis of our concern about the Government cuts of 20% to the policing budget.

"We recognise that initially it was difficult to cope with the widespread and unprecedented disorder we witnessed in August this year but, through sufficient police officer numbers, we were able to contain the situation and restore order to the streets across the UK."

He went on: "Our genuine fear is, should a similar situation occur again in future years, that despite our very best efforts, with less police officers and the impact of the budget cuts on training, we would struggle to protect the public and any lessons learned now would be wasted.

"I don't know how the Government decide what price they place on public safety but this report further compounds our view that cutting the police budget is inadvisable and could jeopardise public safety."