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OU academic calls on Youth Select Committee to “be bold and brave”

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An OU academic is calling for the UK Government to prioritise the role of inequality and poverty, of illicit drug markets and to inject more funding into youth services when he provides evidence to the Youth Select Committee this week (Friday 12 July).

Dr Keir Irwin-Rogers, a Lecturer in Criminology in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, will draw on his own research and that which he has been conducting as lead criminologist for the cross-party Youth Violence Commission.

In his evidence, Dr Irwin-Rogers will respond to questions around how the UK Government should engage young people with its youth crime strategies and policies; he will consider whether the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy is fit for purpose and he will outline what he sees as Government’s top three priorities to target youth crime, which are:

Role of inequality and poverty

According to Dr Irwin-Rogers, cities such as London are plagued by huge levels of inequality. The top 10% have amassed a wealth of £260 billion while the bottom 10% are indebted by £1.6 billion. These levels of inequality are not conducive to a stable society, and social problems will inevitably manifest around those at the very bottom. We must adopt social policies that will reduce inequality and relative poverty. The evidence clearly shows that societies with the highest rates of serious violence are those with high levels of socioeconomic inequality and vice versa. This is an inconvenient truth for some politicians, but a truth nonetheless.

Role of illicit drug markets

Dr Irwin-Rogers welcomes the fact that the role of illicit drug markets in generating serious violence is now widely acknowledged but he is concerned that no satisfactory solutions are being offered. We must consider fundamental reform to our archaic and counterproductive prohibitionist approach to drugs.

Significant cash injection needed

Dr Irwin-Rogers will say that these first two priorities are long-term endeavours – likely to take years rather than weeks or months. In the meantime, short-term responses should include serious cash injections into statutory and third sector youth services.

He will provide the following advice to the Youth Select Committee: ‘Avoid getting caught up in the minutiae of technical tweaks to policy and practice. Be bold, be brave, and be more ambitious than the adults who are currently failing you.’

Dr Irwin-Rogers will deliver his evidence to the Youth Select Committee at 12:45-1:45pm on Friday 12 July.

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