19 Dec 2011

Young people across the UK believe that poverty is one of the key reasons behind the August riots, according to a new survey commissioned by The Children’s Society.

The leading children’s charity has published the first intergenerational study into public views on the causes of the riots, surveying both 13 to 17 year olds and adults.

Behind the Riots found that most 13 to 17 year olds and adults believed the main reasons behind the worst disturbances in this country since the 1980s was 'to get goods and possessions they couldn’t afford to buy'.

Why did it happen?

They gave a mixed picture of causes overall, with most choosing more than one reason why the riots happened.

Young people and adults surveyed both felt that children and young people would be viewed more negatively following the riots. This was a particular concern for 17 to 24 year olds.

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

Other key findings

Other key findings of Behind the Riots include:

  • One in seven children and young people thought they had fewer prospects for their immediate future following the riots
  • 17 year olds were most likely to cite government cuts as a reason for the riots, and also were most likely to say more government support was needed following the riots (67%)

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.'


Media enquiries

For more information, please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email mea@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Related coverage

The Guardian - http://ow.ly/83ypP

Notes to editors:

The Children’s Society commissioned an online survey of a representative sample of children aged 13-17 and adults aged 18+ from across the UK, to understand their views of the riots that took place in England in August 2011. In total, 1004 adults and 1077 13-17 year olds were surveyed between 3 October and 10 November 2011.
The questions were devised following a consultation with children where they were asked to give their reasons why they thought children had become involved in the riots.  The survey covered the following areas:

  • Perceived reasons why some young people became involved in the riots
  • Whether the government should be doing more to support children and young people since the riots
  • Whether adults will view children and young people more negatively because of the riots
  • Whether children and young people felt their immediate future had been affected by the riots.

The Children’s Society believes it is important for children themselves to have a chance to share their views on the events. We are a leading national charity that supports nearly 50,000 children and young people every year through specialist services. Giving a voice to children and young people to influence policy and public debate is at the heart of our mission.

1  A consultation event was held at the Greenbelt youth festival at the end of August 2011 with a group of children and young people.