CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Too many at-risk kids are falling through the welfare net

01 December, 2017

Yasir Beshir

DETAILS of the “intolerable” childhood endured by the 16-year-old boy who shot Yasir Beshir in Kilburn do not excuse, but do help explain, his actions.

A juvenile known by social services to be “at risk”, he had been banned from mainstream schools. He is known to have run away from home at least 40 times, often travelling long distances away from Camden.

Is it any wonder he became open to exploitation by older boys, and eventually graduated toward serious crime? The police clearly have concerns about the way unruly children are routinely moved out of mainstream school into pupil referral units (PRUs). Should secondary schools be taking more responsibility for bad behaviour? In an era of league tables and competitive education, some may be too quick to exclude disruptive influences in the classroom. Camden’s PRUs aim is to put as many pupils as possible back on an even keel and then reintroduce them to mainstream schools.

But the system may also be isolating many. Worse still, they may be nurturing something like an “underclass” of teenage tearaways.

Government cuts to child-care agencies that PRUs work closely with are putting too much pressure on the schools. At-risk children may fall through the holes opening in the welfare safety net.

Should alternatives to PRUs be considered? Some schools are setting up their own offshoots, specialising in sport or business and with a strong emphasis on mental health therapies and bringing families into the classroom.

Data safety

HOW safe is Camden’s data?

A council employee, possibly coerced by a gang intent on conning elderly residents, was able to obtain a long list of potential victims while working in the Town Hall. The information appears to have been obtained from adult social services despite the man working for another department.

The court heard he had no reason to have access to that information. So why did he?

The council has long prided itself at being at the forefront of the drive to improve digital connectivity and “open data”.

The scam should serve as a wake-up call to the council that its data must not be too open.

Impolitic

TULIP Siddiq is often described as a canny politician – a tag she got after her shrewd ascent from Camden coun­cillor to Labour MP for Hampstead & Kilburn.

But her decision to report Channel 4 to the police is, at best, impolitic.

Fledgling MPs can often move from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever.

The door-stepping by journalists at the rally for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may have been uncomfortable, border­ing on unseemly. There may have been some provocation. She was at the time about to speak to a large crowd about a campaign she has been at the forefront of. But reporting the events to police may only prolong the agony for her.

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