Cameron's latest cuts will hurt the hoodies he promised to hug

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Indy Politics

Five years ago David Cameron implored the public to “hug a hoodie”. The staple garment of urban Britain was, he pointed out, an attempt to blend in rather than to intimidate. “Hoodies are more defensive than offensive,” he said. “They’re a way to stay invisible in the street.”

But now Mr Cameron is in Downing Street, the hoodies don’t feel as if they are being hugged. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics this week revealed that youth unemployment is at the highest since records began, at 20.6 per cent of the economically active population aged between 16 and 24.

Youth workers told The Independent that planned funding cuts of more than 20 per cent to Youth Offending Teams, due to be introduced at the end of this month, will result in an increase in crime in British cities, and lead to more teenagers being victimised by gang culture. And some of those who through film and music were instrumental in raising awareness of life on British housing estates when Mr Cameron made his “hug a hoodie” speech on social justice in 2006, warned of a rising tide of violence. The Coalition Government’s intention to introduce £9,000-a-year tuition fees at universities will impact on opportunities for teenagers to escape from neighbourhoods where many feel trapped, as Mr Cameron previously acknowledged. “In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down,” he said.

In the capital, London Councils are braced for an increase in inner city crime following a decision to reduce funding to Youth Offending Teams by an average of 23 per cent across the city. The teams have lost funding from the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Department for Education. Steve Reed, London Councils executive member for children and young people, has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove to reconsider, warning “there is a very real risk that we could see a rise in young people offending”. He said: “Many young Londoners face environments that would terrify most adults – living every day with violence, drugs and gang activity.”

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, also anticipated an increase in urban crime and said it was unrealistic to expect parents on poor estates to pick up the slack of cuts to youth services by paying for their children to take part in leisure activities. “All the big cities – Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham – are looking at serious cuts to youth services because they’re regarded as non-essential,” he said. “There will be more young people involved in anti-social and criminal behaviour, less lawyers to represent them, less probation officers to supervise them and less police officers to catch them.”

A film that helped to shape the “hoodie” debate to which Mr Cameron contributed was director Noel Clarke’s 2006 production Kidulthood, filmed on estates close to the Conservative leader’s home in Notting Hill, west London.

One of the stars of the film, Adam Deacon, has written and directed a comedy follow up film, Anuvahood, which uses humour to address the serious issue of young people trying to escape the clutches of the bullies that terrorise their neighbourhood. I’ve lived in a council estate all my life and not all these kids are bad

Just because they talk a certain way or wear a hoodie they are not necessarily going to go out and try and stab someone,” he said. “I think it’s getting harder now with all the cutbacks and so many things closing down in these areas. I believe we’ve never had it harder. People are losing their jobs and their houses and it’s scary times we are living in. Young people weren’t to blame for this and people in Government and politicians need to take a little bit more responsibility.”

Deacon wrote Anuvahood with Michael Vu, a friend at Stoke Newington school, north London, who has returned to the school to work assisting teachers with difficult children. “Some people presume it to be the easier route to do the gang-related stuff,” he said. “I always tell the kids in my school to stay away from that. They might think it’s glamorous but by the time they get to 21 all they would know is how to sell drugs and they can’t get out of that vicious circle.”

Peter Robbins, lead member for children and young people in Lambeth, south London, said the cuts to the Youth Offending Teams had been introduced at too short notice. “We are really concerned that as a result of this there will be more re-offending, more youth crime,” he said. “With the cuts, the changes to tuition fees and the fact that employment is a problem it is difficult to articulate a better future for them when someone is offering them a few hundred quid a week to sell drugs.”

Read: Adam Deacon - Boy from the hood