Much was said about the people involved in, and the underlying causes of, the disturbances across the UK in August last year. This is not surprising: the events were frightening and resulted in five deaths, at least 16 injuries, the loss of people’s homes and businesses and damage totalling millions.
Police and court statistics provided some information about age breakdown and geographical spread. However many wider assumptions have been made – about previous criminality, the role of gang culture, race relations, policing, poverty and inequality – without detailed knowledge or talking to those involved.
It was in this context that in September 2011 the Youth Justice Board asked User Voice to undertake a consultation with some of the young people who were involved in the August disturbances and who had since been sentenced to a community sentence or to custody for their role.
In addition, the Youth Justice Board asked User Voice to undertake a consultation with young people who did not get involved but had a similar profile and were in areas which faced similar pressures to those where disturbances occurred.
The Youth Justice Board’s purpose in doing this project was to:
• Bring the voice and experiences of these young people into the public debate;
• Provide evidence about the different characteristics and motivations of those young people who got involved;
• Explore whether there were identifiable reasons why trouble did not escalate elsewhere where similar issues and characteristics were present; and
• Inform the Youth Justice Board’s work going forward and the broader policy debate.
Taken as a whole, the project aimed to provide information about:
• The young people’s thoughts on the disturbances in general;
• Details of the young people’s involvement, including why they got involved, and who with;
• Contextual information (views and experience of family, education, training, employment, etc).
User Voice worked in partnership with Durham University, which provided methodological advice and guidance. This area of the partnership working from the university side was led by Professor Graham Towl, Deputy Warden at Durham University.
A link to the Youth Justice Board’s report on their observations on young people and the August Disturbances 2011 can be found here.