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Thursday, 6 December 2012
Gang leaders aged NINE in Hackney blamed on ‘lack of male role models’
06 December 2012
Children as young as nine are taking over the leadership of gangs in London because of a lack of positive male role models, a former Home Office minister has warned Parliament.
Meg Hillier, the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, told MPs that “youngsters aged nine and ten” had started to act the “big man” after the jailing of older gang members following the London riots.
She blamed the problem, on Hackney’s Pembury estate, on the low number of male primary school teachers and nursery staff and the absence of other good male influences in their lives.
Ms Hillier’s warning came during a parliamentary debate on gangs and youth violence. Other MPs warned that the “shocking” level of black youth unemployment risked triggering further problems. Concern was also expressed about “stop start” funding for anti-gang programmes and the failure of the Home Office to guarantee that money awarded to schemes in the wake of the riots would continue.
The most striking comments came, however, from Ms Hillier. She said that crime had fallen “dramatically” in Hackney over recent years and that education standards had risen, but warned that the lack of positive male role models was a “big concern”.
“An eight-year-old boy will typically look for a male role model,” she told MPs.
“On the Pembury estate when older gang members have been put in prison, the youngsters, aged nine and 10, have sometimes begun to act the big man and to act as the leaders of their groups.
The lack of male role models in schools, communities and, often, homes can therefore make a real difference.
“We need to have a serious adult discussion nationally about what is happening, particularly in our primary schools.
"I always add up how many male teachers there are in primary schools, and, sadly, there are far too few. In under-five settings, too, there are generally far too few male role models. That is a real issue, which has a long-term effect.”
Tottenham MP David Lammy echoed Ms Hillier’s concerns and said improved action over “younger brothers and cousins who take over the turf” after the arrest of older siblings.
He added: “There are question marks over the work needed to ensure that young people do not follow in the footsteps of their brothers and cousins following arrest. As a society, we must underline the importance of men, and particularly fathers, in our communities.”
Karen Buck, the MP for Westminster North, said “catastrophic” youth unemployment was a serious concern, particularly among young black men aged 18 to 24 who were twice as likely to be out of work as their white counterparts. She said this was a “shocking” statistic that could not be ignored because of its role in fuelling gang and serious youth violence. Mr Lammy added that the jobless rate among young black men was worse than in the United States.
Home Officer minister Jeremy Browne said the government was spending £3.75 million on a communities against gangs, guns and knives scheme, plus more money on other initiatives and had achieved “reasonable” progress upon which it hoped to build.