MP calls for scheme to stop future riots

RIOTSRAM - the london riots
RIOTSRAM - the london riots
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VETERAN Sheffield MP David Blunkett has called for the creation of a National Volunteer Programme in the wake of last month’s riots.

The Brightside and Hillsborough MP wants school-leavers to carry out nine months of voluntary work, to ‘instill values of responsibility and respect’ absent among the rioters.

Mr Blunkett said: “It can be seen that a National Volunteer Programme has widespread support.

“It is clear that many young people in the areas affected by the riots are growing up with values that are incompatible with a fit and flourishing society.

“In the light of the disturbances, criminality and looting, it is now time to address the broader question of how we change values and attitudes fundamentally, so that mutuality and reciprocity come high on the public agenda.”

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show there are 979,000 16 to 24-year-olds not in employment, education or training nationwide.

The former Home Secretary says his scheme would tackle rising youth unemployment, and said the programme would be “geared towards social, educational and environmental programmes, seeking both to transform local communities and to provide confidence-building, self-esteem and new experiences for young people”.

The Prime Minister has already announced a National Citizen Service - encouraging 16-year-old to undertake voluntary activities for a few weeks over the summer.

But Mr Blunkett said the programme did not go far enough.

He added: “We can see that low employment rates exacerbate a culture of no hope, where the power and image that comes from being part of a gang is a much more accessible and attractive offer than a job.

“A culture of dependency and victimhood prevails, and opportunities to escape are limited.”

He said the cost to the Government would be affordable, an estimated £140m for 20,000 participants.

“This figure has to be seen within the context of the gargantuan overall cost of youth crime, which the National Audit Office estimates to be between £8.5 and £11bn,” he said.

“That sum would fall drastically if more young offenders were steered away from crime and into more responsible activities.

“We should see a National Volunteer Programme as not just an answer for those who participate, but also as part of the solution for these growing problems.

“Participants could volunteer in care homes, or assist with support in the homes of those needing help to enable older people to stay in their own home for longer,” said Mr Blunkett.