£5m effort to keep youths out of trouble

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The Independent Online

The Government is to spend £5m on encouraging young people in riot-torn areas to take up sailing, mountain biking and other activities in order to keep them off the streets during the rest of the summer.

The plan has been drawn up by ministers after Britain's worst outbreak of race rioting in two decades and comes as the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, makes his first visit to affected areas today.

The money has been allocated by a cross-departmental ministerial working party as part of an effort to prevent further rioting. Funds are being provided to projects in towns and cities including Oldham, Burnley, Stoke-on-Trent and Bradford as well as other deprived areas at risk of outbreaks of public disorder.

The Home Office said the schemes were designed to prevent young people idling on street corners and to instil a sense of pride in their community. A Home Office spokeswoman said: "This is designed to enhance their interests and provide somewhere for them to go during the evenings. This gives them a sense of achievement and also a sense of pride in where they come from."

Mr Blunkett will visit community projects in Bradford, where three days of rioting last month led to 200 police officers being injured and shops and businesses being burnt and looted. After the Bradford riots, Mr Blunkett warned: "We cannot and will not tolerate the wanton destruction and violence we have witnessed".

A committee of ministers was set up to investigate the causes of the summer disturbances. The Home Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions have provided funds for the 117 community projects being given extra money.

As well as sporting activities and trips to country and coastal areas, young people from deprived estates will be encouraged to take part in arts and music-based projects.

The Home Secretary will meet girls involved in redecorating a community centre in the Fagley area of Bradford and will discuss measures being employed to divert young people from crime and disorder.

Salima Hafejee, a youth team co-ordinator in the city, said a party of young people had been taken on a trip last month to Shell Island in north Wales, where they took part in water sports, abseiling and group discussions. Ms Hafejee said the trip had given youth workers a unique opportunity to engage with their charges. "You are taking them away from the peer pressure," she said. "You can work with them and influence them."

Government funds will also help to train Bradford people aged between 18 and 25 in working as trainee community safety workers, where they go to problem estates and talk to young people about drugs, health and housing problems. The trainees then work with them on a five-week summer "diversionary programme", which Ms Hafejee said was designed to divert young people "from crime and anti-social behaviour and [help them] make relationships with other adults".

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