After the riots: what about the wider family? By Stephen Burke, Grandparents Plus

After the riots: What about the wider family?

By Stephen Burke,
Co-chair, Grandparents Plus and
Director, United for All Ages


Beyond the recent riots, our efforts must be on prevention. Prevention not just of more riots but to ensure that young people in particular have the chances and the support to do well in life.

The cranking up of the criminal justice system in August shows that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Politicians hope that swift punishments will act as a deterrent.

Now we need to devote as much energy to the underlying social issues. Much of the debate has focused on parents – where were they, what have they been doing – and whether they should also be punished for the crimes of their offspring, for example by losing their home.

But for many young people the wider family are or could be just as important as their parents.

For some children, the parents can’t be there because they have died or are seriously ill, have drugs, alcohol or mental health problems, or simply can’t cope. In these cases the wider family from grandparents to aunts and uncles are often the best alternative.

But family policy in Britain is two dimensional – focusing only on parents and children. We need a family policy that is multi-generational and multi-dimensional.

Hundreds of thousands of children already benefit from full-time care provided by their grandparents. They should be the first resort for social services. Extended families really are the early intervention many argue for, and low cost too.

For the vast majority of children, there is an important adult in their wider family beyond their parents – someone they can talk to in confidence, someone they respect and who is a role model.

Families are a wonderful resource. We need to use them, support them and recognise them for what they do and can do to give all young people the best start in life.

Let’s hope the post-riots review leads to a fundamental shift in how society views the wider family.

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2 Responses to After the riots: what about the wider family? By Stephen Burke, Grandparents Plus

  1. Having worked in Race Equality back in the 1980s for LB Lambeth, we knew how important the extended family was, particlularly among the African/ Caribbean Communities in England, but over the years we have seen this breakdown, pitiously so.
    We have a situation where some reckless young people choose to have children at a very young age and then ‘dump’ them on their older parents; then older parents, worn out from years of working are unable to cope, but help out any ways. I have seen discipline and control snatched from the hands of these families over the years and from Teachers and they have given up. So what do we have? Lots of ill disciplined, badly educated young people with or without children, with no respect for authority, running loose, who are consumed with materialism and the desire to be famous singers or footballers, (even worse preening themeselves to become future wives or girlfriends), without working hard! They cannot be blamed for all the advertisments thrown at them from the TV, Radio, PCs etc etc, which augments their desire to WANT MORE. We need to take stock and ask questions about how we are going to heal communiites after these riots. Punishing people the way we are sentencing them at the moment is NOT THE RIGHT WAY!!
    I wud advocate that we give more power to Teachers in schools and parents shud not be allowed to verbally or physically abuse them. More powers to the police and parents to chastise their children.
    I wud also bring back National Service for 2 yrs and offer the option of 1yr Community servicr and 1yr National Service.
    We shud also have Summer camps for young people wehere they can learn and do good things for the community in which they are placed. These are not fascistic or communist ideas, but sensible ideas to teach young people how to repect each other; their elders, authority and the commnities in which they live. I do not see anyother way of achieveing this and winning back the moral high ground. The children of today are lost, and we are partly guilty for that, we SOCIETY are partly gulity!

  2. Pauline Graham says:

    I totally agree. The atmosphere on going through Croydon the day after the riots was one of stillness and disbelief. The government believes that prison is and was the answer to the rioters. We all know that there needs to be more resources placed within early intervention programmes, there needs to be more communities coming together to work to tackle problems/issues that arise in our neighbourhoods. I am a great believer that it takes a village to raise children and that its not only the parents responsibility of their children, it is all of our responsibility to find solutions, I totally agree with you in that there should be a family, extended families and community policies. But policies only work if there is the right investment and resources to take them through and in order to see if interventions have worked, there needs to be success ratings available.


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