New PCC report warns of the ticking time bomb of youth unemployment and crime in the West Midlands

Friday, 29 May, 2020

David Jamieson, Police & Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands has published a major report calling for ‘A Future Generations Deal’ which warns of the ticking time bomb of youth unemployment and crime in the West Midlands. In his letter he says:

I am proposing that job subsidies are brought in to ensure the next generation isn’t facing a lifetime of unemployment and crime.  I am also proposing that there are transition funds put in place so those finishing an apprenticeship are able to continue their careers, as well as support for those who do not have access to digital devices that are crucial for distance learning, with chaotic school openings leaving some young people set to be out of the classroom for up to six months.

Without this significant support we are set for a large rise in the number of young people who become involved in crime and exploitation, including through the county lines drugs trade. We must work together now to tackle the issue of potential long term unemployment for young people.

I am profoundly concerned about the potentially devastating effect that the current Covid-19 crisis could have on younger people in the West Midlands.

Most leading economic commentators are predicting a huge rise in unemployment; a hardship that our young people may have to endure for an unspecified period of time. The correlation between unemployment and criminality is well known, and as the region’s Police & Crime Commissioner, I feel it is my duty to push this impending problem high up on the agenda.

Recently, I published an emergency chapter to my Police and Crime Plan which sets out the expectations from the police in the current crisis as well as how I will be commissioning other services to meet the challenges of Covid-19.

Before the outbreak of the Coronavirus, my Violence Reduction Unit was already focussing attention on the causes and solutions to existing violence. That work has gained additional urgency and relevance.

As the year progresses, we could see large numbers of young people find that there is no job for them and they may have very limited opportunity for paid employment once the lockdown is lifted. In my view, this is a ‘ticking time bomb’. Many of these young people, particularly young men, could well be drawn into antisocial behaviour, which in some cases will graduate into serious violence and crime.

I am also deeply anxious about girls and boys of school age, all of whom are missing a substantial part of their education due to the lockdown. There is one subset of school children who are of particular concern – there is no plan for children in years 7, 8 and 9 (11-14yrs) to return to school until September 2020 at the earliest. Tragically, this means that some children will be missing at

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least 6 months of their schooling. Many, particularly pupils already struggling with academic expectations and/or those from disadvantaged families, may find it extremely difficult to return to their studies with the rhythm and work discipline that the school environment brings. (In France, where children have returned to school, they are already experiencing this trend).

Again, the concern is that some of these children will drift into the hands of organised criminals, into gangs or ‘County Lines’ operations, as we have seen so starkly with children who were excluded from school prior to lockdown. Right now, the closures are effectively ‘excluding’ hundreds of thousands of children from their school. There is an urgent need to address the potential consequences, and this is why I am bringing ideas to the table for urgent consideration by the government, the police, the West Midlands Mayor and Combined Authority, local authorities, trade unions, the third sector and the business community.

The social and economic cost of inaction at the current time could be considerable. After the furlough scheme ends, we will be paying vast amounts in unemployment benefits as well as potentially facing a substantial bill for the cost of increased crime. We need to use our limited public resources to best effect. This is why I believe we should ensure funding is shifted to encouraging employment, skills and knowledge development and economic activity, rather than funding the consequences of economic collapse.

Ignoring the urgency of this problem would leave lasting damage for the young people themselves, and for our wider society.

I have attached the report for you to read and if you have any questions please contact Tom McNeil on t.mcneil[at]west-midlands.pnn.police[dot]uk.

 

Read the letter, dated 27 May 2020

Read the full report ‘A Future Generations Deal’