Posted: 28 March 2012

New riots report emphasises need to give everyone a stake in society

The biggest challenge for government and all those affected by August's riots has been making sure that the learnings from the terrible events is used as a catalyst for genuine change.

That’s why the publication of the independent report by the Riots, Victims and Communities Panel which consulted widely as part of its inquiry is so important.

Our own research published in December found that young people across the country felt that poverty and material disadvantage were one of the key reasons for the public disorder. Both adults and children were clear in their belief that government should do much more to support young people to fulfil their potential. The panel’s report sets out how this can be achieved.

Ensuring young people have a stake in society

The central message from the panel to all those working with children and young people is to do more to foster a greater sense of belonging so that every young person feels they have a stake in society. Critical to achieving this is meeting the needs of all families.

The panel believes that there are half a million who have  been ‘forgotten’, left to ‘bump along the bottom of society’. Services are failing to support them and their children and need to adopt a set of key principles.

The most important of these is a commitment to a positive, asset based approach that works to ensure all children are able to achieve their potential.

Children deserve 'a fair deal from public services'

The panel recommends that every child should have access to an advocate to help them get 'a fair deal from public services'. We know from the children and young people we work with that they often feel let down by services.

Children who run away from home, for example, tell us that they are told off for being a nuisance rather than their behaviour being seen as a cry for help.

Providing children with an advocate so their voices are heard and they are able to hold services to account could make a real difference to whether or not their needs are met. It can also be an empowering experience. And there are benefits for how children feel about their life.

How important is it for a child's voice to be heard?

Our examination of children’s subjective well-being has found that they need to see themselves in a positive light, and deserve to feel -- and be --respected by all adults and other children. Whether or not they feel their voice is being heard is a key driver of their well-being.

The riots panel has made an important contribution urging all agencies from the police to schools, social care and health to reappraise how they reach out to children, young people and families. Hopefully it will not only provide food for thought but lead to new ways of working.

By Enver Solomon, Policy Director

By Enver Solomon - Policy team

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