Funding cuts 'leave black youths to die'

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The Independent Online

An independent adviser to the Home Office accused politicians today of "leaving black youths to die" by cutting funding to community groups.

Dr Derrick Campbell said funds earmarked for community cohesion were not going to the right organisations.

His comments come as police appealed for calm in Birmingham after three gang-related incidents - including two deaths - in the West Midlands in 24 hours.

Dr Campbell told the BBC: "We have clear evidence of organisations which used to be funded and have delivered on outcomes but have suddenly not been supported.

"And we have to ask the question whether there seems to be an acceptance that if another black youth is killed they are just another one that we don't have to worry about.

"Black youths within this country have been left to die. And that's a very strong statement but it's a statement that seems to be borne out through evidence about black youths who seem to be at the top of the list when it comes to our youngsters being killed.

"Now we're asking very serious questions of national government and local government as to why it seems that resources that have been allocated for community cohesion and other activities have not been going to those organisations."

Dr Campbell is chairman of the National Independent Advisory Group on Criminal Use of Firearms, which advises the Home Office and the security services.

He said there was hard evidence from community groups in the Birmingham area that their funding was being cut - a situation which he said was reflected nationally.

The three incidents in the West Midlands all involving black youths included the shooting dead of Dimitri Foskin, 24, in the Newtown area of Birmingham on Saturday night.

A Home Office spokesman told the BBC: "The government is committed to tackling gun, gang and knife crime and getting weapons off our streets.

"In July we launched the £100m Youth Crime Action Plan which sets out a comprehensive package of tough enforcement and intensive prevention measures as well as more support for parents to tackle offending and reduce reoffending

Dr Campbell said the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones a year ago demonstrated that crimes against white youths received more attention from the Government and media.

"As a result (of the shooting) the Home Office was jumping up and down last August," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The question was asked at the time of the Home Secretary why it was we didn't see the same frenetic activity from the Government and the media when the black youths were murdered and yet when the white youngster was killed everybody stood to attention."

But Home Office minister Tony McNulty rejected the suggestion that murders of black youths received less Government or media attention.

"Frankly what Derrick says is an insult to black groups and other community groups up and down the country who are being funded by local and central government, and work in this area on a daily and regular basis," Mr McNulty said.

"I do need to knock down the notion that somehow there is a national conspiracy of at best indifference, and at worst active policy that says somehow the death of young black men on our streets doesn't matter.

"It matters profoundly, and it matters in every single instance whether the individual is black or white."