Two local women, who spent most of their working lives with young people, are very concerned that not enough is being done to stop teenagers following the wrong path, with lives being put at risk.
Norma Aitchison and Anne King were prompted to act following a Channel 4 news report last November about Jaden Moodie, a 14-year-old brutally murdered in the Leyton area of London after being recruited by a county lines gang. Jaden had previously been found in what was described as a Bournemouth crackhouse – 140 miles away from his home, but apparently there was no attempt to rescue him or refer him back to caseworkers in his home area.
They say they were appalled at the murder of this boy and others like him, and are trying to bring the lack of support for vulnerable young people to the attention of the authorities.
Norma said, “I was a youth worker in Leyton, until I retired. In those days, we had several youth clubs in the area, and people vulnerable youngsters could talk to, now there is almost nothing. Young people, many living in difficult circumstances, are often frightened, stressed, lonely and isolated, but where can they go for help? The need is still very much there, but those services that do still exist are overstretched and under-resourced.”
Anne, who has worked with young people trying to build self-esteem and teach them how to become employable, said, “I am very concerned that ‘difficult’ young people can be marginalised because they are disruptive. Many lead chaotic lives where home circumstances and life experience has left them feeling completely at sea. Exclusion from school can mean they lose hope and drift into the grasp of criminal gangs who exploit them and lead them into a way of life that makes them even more vulnerable to violence and criminality.”
Norma and Anne both believe that cutting youth services to save money is a totally false economy as tackling the criminality and anti-social behaviour of marginalised young people involves much greater cost both financially and socially.
The pandemic has highlighted how very different standards apply to these very vulnerable young people compared with those from wealthier homes.
The women added, “We know that happy, well cared-for people are many times more likely to survive Covid, but lack of support too often forces the vulnerable on to the streets where they face many dangers. What young person hanging round the streets with nowhere to go, and nothing to look forward to would not be tempted with the promise of earning what looks like easy money? All too easily they get embroiled into a world which puts profit ahead of any human values, where gangs fight one another for control of an area, and there is no moral compass.”
They say they are saddened that none of the politicians they have written to have bothered to reply and are very upset that we are turning into a society where vulnerable young people are thrown to the wolves rather than being helped to become useful citizens.
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