Monday, October 14, 2019

The poverty that creates knife crime by Jon Kuhrt


The poverty that creates knife crime

My community in south London lives in the shadow of knife crime.  Young people have been killed on our street and the threat of violence continually affects the young people we know and care about. As a father of three children, including two teenage boys, I am more anxious than ever about their safety.
Like all enduring social problems, knife crime is complex. If it wasn’t, it would get solved quickly.  I find this model helpful in thinking about the combination of causes of the violence:
3 faces of povertyResources
Of course, a key factor is the most obvious form of poverty – a basic lack of resourcesLow income, insecure employment, zero-hour contracts and the lack of affordable housing all play a role in feeding the inequality which disaffects young people.
But in addition, there are the community resources which support and guide young people in the right direction. Exclusions from school may help improve exam statistics, but the cost is paid by communities affected by disillusioned young people cast adrift from the educational system. The Police are more stretched than ever and all statutory youth services have cut to the bone.
But equally as important as resources are relationships. Appreciation for the hard work of single mothers should never lead us to downplay the importance of fathers. Too many young men do not have consistent male role-models who show them how to contain and manage their anger and frustration.
Outside of families, we don’t have enough adults volunteering in youth groups and mentoring programmes. Our busyness means that we are not involved enough in the lives of others – we don’t know who the kids are who are hanging around the street corner. Too often, our only relationship with them is one of fear.
Most significantly, underneath both of these is an underlying poverty of identity. Many young people do not feel a sense of significance or worth about their own lives, let alone about others.
Many grow up in a context of poor boundaries around their behaviour. The result is not having a secure sense of identity and who they are. Many struggle to modulate themselves in conflict situations or empathise with others. Relationships within gangs, however fractured and fluid, can provide a sense of identity.
Blame game
Debates around the causes of knife crime frequently turn into a blame game. Some will put all the fault on the government or the local council because they are seen to control the resources that can make a difference.
But the debate also needs to be more personal. This is a community problem. It requires a community response. What can each of us do to make a difference? 
Two factors which I see as key to making a difference are sport and faith.
A sporting chance
Over the last 5 years, I have coached a youth cricket team and run an informal football club for a group of local kids who are now 14-15 years old.
Purely in itself, sport means very little. But what sport can teach people means a huge amount. Team work, resilience, courage, tenacity, coping with disappointment and failure are all qualities young people need to learn.
Adults can assist this learning process. They can referee a match to maintain fair boundaries and ensure arguments don’t boil over. They can coach and encourage a young person to develop their skills. Adults can role-model positive behaviour, so that whatever the result, they take a lead in shaking hands with opponents and handling defeat well.
On a train this week, I bumped into the dad of a boy I used to coach cricket to. He said what a difference being in the team had made to his son’s confidence. He said ‘cricket has helped him become a man’.
Faith in young people
Churches are by far the biggest employer of youth workers in the country and they have a massive role to play in this knife crime crisis. Churches have connections, trust and resources within local communities that few other institutions do.  But most importantly, the gospel message is directly relevant to saving young people from the carnage of violence and crime.
I don’t believe that young people are not interested in faith. They may not want to sit through a long, boring services which says nothing to them about their life.  But that doesn’t mean they are not interested in questions about purpose, forgiveness and the meaning of life. About half of my football club now go to a group at my church which is currently running the Youth Alpha course.
Faith can help young people develop positive relationships with others and find a renewed identity which is affirming and purposeful.
We are currently in a crisis of violence in urban communities. But the Chinese symbol for the word ‘crisis’ is made up of two words: danger and opportunity.
Of course there are many dangers in the situation, especially for young people. But there is also great opportunities for us all to play a constructive role. We must have faith in young people and in do something, however small, to combat the poverty that leads to knife crime.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Friday, October 11, 2019

Every 80 minutes someone in the UK commits suicide. Mainly men.

Why It’s So Hard to Develop a New Drug for Depression

Illustration: Carolyn Figel

Thursday, October 10, 2019

FEEDBACK samples from my Training Days

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

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The sickening increase in knife crime. Deaths by stabbing.

The BBC in the UK have a TV Report about the massive increase  of the sickening knife crime.
I feel it.
It hurts

As a Youth Worker I know the reality of this and feel deeply for individuals caught up in it all AND the massive financial cuts to the youth services nationwide.

There is a vast majority of young people who have not stabbed. 
There are so many on the fringe of this lifestyle::  
1 being entertained by it all 
2 being tempted to join in under the cover of numbers and the excitement of it all. 
It is all like an action movie or a violent computer game - and attractive. 
We can see there is a large number who are using knives 

in different locations in London and beyond. 
I work with, and have for many years, 
worked with young people on the edge, 
who are living in violence and anti social behaviour. 

I write and share stories about their lives and struggles. 
I feel with them in their situations. 
I work and yearn to understand them and want for them deeply. 
I, like you, think that knife crime is totally unacceptable - absolutely horrific - 
but that is not enough. 

What can be done? 
Short term the local communities and the police force and the course of law has to manage the crisis - but - 
what about the long term? 

Two challenges. 

1 How to burst a bubble. 
Firstly I am challenged by so many
young humans, living in a bubble. 
Trapped in a cycle of 
a spliff habit, alcohol dependency, 
no reason to get out of bed, 
twittering on Facebook and 
trapped in the benefit system, 
and clinging to security with their peers. 
Life is not challenging or stretching. 
They have no responsibility for anyone or even themselves. 
It is a bad place for them to be. 
It is a bad place for the rest of us to be. 

My challenge is how can we get through to them. 
How can we facilitate them in bursting their bubble? 
I can't burst their bubble, it needs to be an act of 
liberation by them themselves. 

I know so many young beautiful intelligent humans 
who are trapped in such circumstances. 
My mission to be of some use. 

2 Burst a Bubble 2 
Young humans involved in serious crime. 
Drugs, knives, guns, robbery, violence, BMWs, prison. 
Here they are, and all their friends and opposition parties, in a cycle of socially and personally negative relationships. 
How can we facilitate them bursting their bubble? 
How can they burst out of their networks 
to form more positive human networks? 

Place these two ingredients together and an explosion will happen - sooner or later. 

We cannot leave families 
and young people to 
become and exist in these circumstances. 

I don't know what to offer in just a few words. 
But there is a massive need for social and emotional learning 
Their families are also very much in need too. 

It is no use saying 'lock them up' 
because we have no space for them 
and it only criminalises the more. 

These young lives need to to be able 
to self determine their lives positively. 
They, like us, need a reason for living - to choose that 
because oppression does not change people - 
it is only themselves who can change. 
They are beautiful humans - like buds of flowers
ready to bloom & NOT be stabbed in their own streets.

Youth Work - my profession, is titled ‘Informal Education’.
That means working among young people in any context.
Starting, developing & building helping relationships with them.
The police can’t do that, and the teachers are doing their best
but they are not on the streets.
We need people workers on the street.
Skilled workers who need to busk it in terms of relationships.
It isn’t easy.
Can’t be short term.
Harsh communities don’t often welcome outsiders.
Workers need to earn the right to be in helping relationships.

They can become like ourselves 
who would not wish to riot, loot, stab & 
have fun in extreme vandalism. 

It can be done. 
It must be done. 
we need to get humans on the ground 
to do this specialist work with them. 
Nurture, involve, new skills, 
new values, new spiritual inner life. 
I have experienced this in my life. 
Seeing those at the bottom 
become significant humans 
giving of their intelligence and personalities 
to become more than useful members of communities 
and in our society at large. 

Young humans services have been hit deeply in recent years. 
Massive cuts. 
Employment is an escape from poverty 
and relational ghettos. 
Yet not available to those in extreme need. 

We need to do something about disaffected young humans. 
Otherwise they will take the risks of behaving like this 
because it breaks their boredom. 

We can see a persons behaviour
but we can’t see their