Rob Burton: The kids at the end of the road and how the Tories are hurting my Yorkshire community

20/11/2015
CommonWeal

Yorkshire-based freelance writer Rob Burton explains how Tory cuts are impacting the next generation in his local area

MY FRIEND lived on a road with a home for troubled children at the end. It was a nice place in a nice area. The home was run by the local council, and had qualified staff working hard for a reasonable (but still quite low, considering the demands of the job) wage.

There were many demands on their attention, and sometimes this meant the kids would get a bit rowdy in the street. My friend would pop over – essentially just to inform the busy staff of what they hadn’t yet noticed – and they’d come out and deal with it quickly, quietly and effectively. They were trained to do so.

Then came the Tory local council cuts. The home is now outsourced to a private firm; inevitably the lowest bidder. They staffed it with people on minimum wage who, for the most part, have little experience and few qualifications beyond a CRB check.

The home is now outsourced to a private firm; inevitably the lowest bidder. They staffed it with people on minimum wage who, for the most part, have little experience and few qualifications beyond a CRB check.

[Note, the old staff are out of work, many will be claiming benefits until they find new work, which means the overall cost to the government in the meantime is unlikely to have dropped. Due to the cuts there is far less of this kind of work available, so even when they do get new work, it’s unlikely their full skill set (taken years to hone) will be utilised; an awful waste of valuable resources. But I digress, so on with the tale.]

So there’s a disturbance. It’s pretty typical. As usual, my friend pops over to have a word with the staff. She’s surprised to find out that they already know, they’re just not doing anything about it.

Why? Because they’re not allowed to; they’re not trained or qualified to deal with situations like this, they just run and maintain the building. Their solution is to shrug and say “call the police”.

She doesn’t want to call the cops on kids, but after a few hours, someone else in the street does.

Of course, at this point, to the government as a whole, it becomes a more expensive solution. Not only is the police time itself more expensive than the previous staff were, the admin is much bigger.

The old staff are out of work, many will be claiming benefits until they find new work, which means the overall cost to the government in the meantime is unlikely to have dropped.

There are records to be kept and things that would have once vanished into a regretful incident are permanently noted. The disturbance is also greater, and the time taken before the problem is dealt with is much greater.

The police don’t arrive for a little while, and quite rightly; it’s not a high priority incident. By the time they arrive, the problem has escalated. The kids don’t know the police officers like they did the old staff. The problem escalates further.

Of course, it all repeats, and each time it gets a little worse; testing boundaries, the kids get a little more daring each time. This upsets relations between the home and the kids. And the home and the local residents. And the home and the police. The police and the local residents. And so on. And so on. And the kids learn to hate the police.

There are local businesses in the area, not just the odd shop but guesthouses; it was a nice area, people wanted to stay there. Now? Not so much. Understandably, the businesses are annoyed with everyone. Everyone’s quality of life has diminished.

But the kids are still there. With benefit and wage cuts, the number requiring care certainly isn’t diminishing. Of all the people involved, the kids themselves are the real victims.

Now the Tories are cutting police funding. Dealing with stuff like this is going to have to slide even further down the list.

The thing is, this is no longer bothering my friend. Because she has the resources to do so, she’s off adventuring. I don’t know anyone who lives on that street anymore. We’re lucky people.

We’re not wealthy, but it’s within our power to leave stuff like this behind. Whole towns if we need to. This country if we really had to. My friend already has.

But the kids are still there. With benefit and wage cuts, the number requiring care certainly isn’t diminishing. Of all the people involved, the kids themselves are the real victims.

The future of criminality, benefits dependency and mental health problems that always lurked at the core of the probabilities for their lives become increasingly likely.

The possibilities in their future are being steadily eroded. The future of criminality, benefits dependency and mental health problems that always lurked at the core of the probabilities for their lives become increasingly likely.

And what cost this future? Those kids we help now might get jobs, pay tax, pay for more kids to be helped. Those we fail will cost us more police time, more NHS resources.

We’re mortgaging their future, and, in the process, we’re also mortgaging ours.

Picture courtesy of Lee Morley