'Nothing short of a national embarrassment': Think tank enlists crime writer for UK housing estates report
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities
Young rioter comes face to face with victim
A right-leaning think tank has enlisted the services of a crime writer to pen a report on the state of some the UK's most deprived housing estates.
Policy Exchange turned to author Gavin Knight to write the report - 'The Estate We're In' - which concludes that the condition of many of the country's social housing estates are "nothing short of a national embarrassment".
The paper argues that decades of neglect and ghettoization have led to acute social problems that are "entrenched and generational", and argues that it would be “morally inexcusable” for policymakers not to pledge to turn around the most deprived council estates within 10 years.
Mr Knight writes that lone parents with low educational attainment and poor parenting skills; child neglect and domestic violence; low levels of employment; and the rise of gang warfare and knife crime have all emerged from repeated failures to attend to conditions on housing estates.
In particular, Mr Knight points to the case of the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, where the "terrible living conditions, high unemployment and poor police relations contributed to the 2011 riots".
The report says that some of the key lessons policymakers should understand are:
• Getting people to report crime is the first step in reclaiming estates. Too often residents are too frightened or disillusioned to do so.
• Leaders and interventions should be local. The dedication and effort of one individual can catalyse the recovery of an estate. Many of these individuals have lived in and around the area themselves and have in-depth knowledge of the problems facing residents. Successful interventions in the report case studies were based at the very heart of the estates they served.
• Residents often have multiple and overlapping issues that require different agencies from social workers and neighbourhood police officers to debt management advice and nursery care.
• Women must be supported. Domestic violence is endemic on many deprived estates and young people who are exposed to violence in the home will often grow up to commit violence themselves.
The paper recommends that the government should set up an ‘Estates Recovery Board’, which would complement the 'troubled families team', pool funding from relevant government departments and work with police & crime commissioners and estate recovery reams to "identify local leaders".
At a local level, says the report, police & crime commissioners should set up ‘estate recovery teams’ made up of local representatives from across all relevant agencies, including chief constables, the local authority, head teachers, NHS Trust representatives, drug and alcohol workers and other individuals from agencies or voluntary organisations who can work with the residents on each estate.
Mr Knight, whose 2011 book 'Hood Rat' was an account of life and death on Britain's sink estates, said: “It would be morally inexcusable for policymakers to turn their backs on Britain’s sink estates.
"Deprived council estates can be transformed from dangerous backwaters. Gang members can be presented with a route away from crime towards a better life. Children and families living in these troubled communities can have their life changes dramatically enhanced. But only if the government commits to a ten year programme to clear up the worst estates in the country.”