COMMUNITIES ACROSS Tower Hamlets have been concerned for the last two years as the Council, under John Biggs, has cut the youth service and, most recently, put the future of young people’s sport in jeopardy.
For his part, John Biggs claims that the cuts in youth provision are minor and little more than a rationalisation of the service. However, critics claim there has been a real loss in service – and point to anecdotal evidence of an increase in Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) across the borough over the last two years.
Now the Council has finished a pilot scheme aimed at reducing ASB – and has confirmed that supporting youth with targeted services does indeed reduce the incidence of ASB.
The pilot scheme took place in Mile End, the ward represented by the former Cabinet Member for Children’s Services who recently resigned from the Cabinet, Cllr Rachael Saunders. Mile End resident Tania Nalywajko told the Council what was going wrong, saying, “I was at my wits end with gangs of about 50 young men drinking and shouting outside my house every night.”
The Council and the police worked together – in the name of the “Community Alcohol Partnership” (CAP) – to tackle the ASB problem by giving the youngsters greater access to leisure activities, coupled with trying to help them into, or at least on the way to, employment.
CAP brought in WorkPath, the Council’s employment service, to talk to the youngsters about training and employment and liaised with schools to educate youngsters about substance misuse. To tackle supply issues, CAP carried out some test purchasing of alcohol so that action could be taken against any local supplier who was providing alcohol to those who were under age.
The Council has just announced that the pilot project resulted in a 62% drop in alcohol-fuelled ASB by young people in Mile End as a whole, and by 52.4% around Mile End Park. The number of underage young people drinking in public was found to have been reduced by 75%, with public drinking down by 28.6%.
Tania Nalywajko endorsed the success of the scheme, saying, “It was really frightening. It’s been a real battle to get them involved, but bringing all the different agencies to work together has made all the difference. The young people don’t hang about on the streets so much and people are using the park more too.”
The Council has not revealed whether it conducted any control research in neighbouring areas – so it is not clear whether the ASB has ended productively or just been moved on. Nor has the Council released the cost of the initiative or how many young people have started training or found employment.
The task for the Council now is to work out whether progress should be achieved via more ad hoc, specially funded schemes or whether the core services such as the youth service and careers service can deliver results in their routine work. At the moment the Council plans to centralise youth services in eight central locations in the borough and to cut the Careers Service – and it remains to be seen whether they will go ahead with this plan or consider repurposing the services to replicate the benefits achieved by the pilot project.
Nonetheless, John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, saw the project as a complete success, saying, “I was pleased to see anti-social behaviour dropped by nearly two-thirds following the pilot and look forward to seeing if other partnership initiatives work equally well in other parts of the borough.”
Councillor Asma Begum, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, also endorsed the project, saying, “It is great that residents now feel that the streets are safer and the park is less subject to anti-social behaviour, so a good resource for local families.”
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