Youth initiative averted threat of copycat riots

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A GOVERNMENT minister came to Sheffield to hear about the innovative work done to stop copy-cat behaviour in the city during the August riots.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families Tim Loughton visited youth charity Sheffield Futures after hearing about its work from Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

He found out about the efforts of the Sheffield Youth Council and the city’s Young Advisors project during the tense days after trouble first flared in London. Mr Loughton heard about the city-wide response to the crisis by all the youth services, the police and the council.

Sheffield Young Advisor Luke Clews told the minister messages were sent out through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to discourage violence.

He said: “Sheffield Young Advisors, UK Youth Parliament and Sheffield Youth Council members were all determined to help. I came up with ‘Steel City, Not Steal City’ as a campaign on to use on social networks.

“We were tasked with spotting videos glamorising riot behaviour posted on Facebook pages. We asked individuals to remove them from their profiles. The positive messages were well received.

“The creation of our Word On The Street poster explained about the actions and consequences of becoming involved in the looting, and it was especially successful.

“We were determined the damage inflicted on London would not be repeated in our communities.”

Mr Loughton told the young people: “One of the reasons I am here to visit Sheffield Futures is because Nick Clegg told me about what happened here. Nick has been very vocal about singing your praises.

“Because the prevention work was led by young people it was really positive. Lessons can really be learned from the work you have done here in Sheffield.”

The Sheffield approach is set to be featured extensively in a new Government policy document called Positive 4 Youth.

Mr Loughton met Coun Jackie Drayton, Cabinet member for children and young people.

She said: “All too often young people get branded as being disaffected and disengaged with society but it is heart-warming to see Sheffield teenagers kick this image into touch by taking the positive and adult response they took during what was an appalling episode for this country.”