Recent youth unemployment figures provide a stark reminder of the huge difficulties facing all young people during this financial crisis, but none more so than young Black people. Recent figures show 50 percent of Black people aged 16-24 years are unemployed compared with 20 percent White people.
In many areas, the anger and desperation of young people unable to enter into education and unable to find employment are reaching boiling point. The levels of unemployment are criminal and I use that word purposefully to reject the description of all those involved in our summer riots as “purely criminal” by the Prime Minister David Cameron.
Unemployment, public sector cuts, the vindictive ideological nature of this Government in abolishing the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to the poorest families in the land have all contributed to a general climate where young people feel trapped and abandoned. Government does still not understand the level of anger in the poorest communities and the damage this has caused.
Around 41 percent of riots suspects live in areas in the bottom 10 percent of England in terms of deprivation according to recent analysis by The Guardian.
With youth unemployment standing at over one million, this represents the worst economic period for young people since the 1990s. During that period we saw a huge rise in racist attacks - this was the decade when Stephen Lawrence, Roland Adams and Rahuella Aramesh amongst others were victims of extreme racist violence and murders. Secondly, it saw an explosion of crack cocaine in London’s Black communities and in its wake came armed criminality on a huge scale.
Thirdly, we saw increase in mental illness, depression and long term sickness as the awful reality of long-term unemployment and poverty took its toll.
It is without doubt that long-term unemployment will devastate whole communities. In some areas of London, youth unemployment is already above 50% and rising. There is a real need for Government to set out a new vision with promise of a future that young people can believe in and aspire to.
Failure to do so will come at the cost of sacrificing the whole future of an entire generation. That is a price we as a country can ill afford. There has to be light at the end of the tunnel and right now that light is quickly fading.