AN MP has called for all young people, from primary-school age upwards, to have a mentor who could act like a godparent and keep them away from crime.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, was speaking at a conference, “God, Guns and Gangs”, at the Oasis Centre in London last Saturday. The conference agreed that mentoring, nurturing talent, and commitment by churches to building youth-focused teams could all help to stem violent gang activity.
“Every youngster should have a mentor who has something in common with them, whether computers or sport, who stays with them until secondary school, so they build up an association with that person,” Mr Hughes said. “They will be like an extra parent, supporter, or godparent.”
Young people should also start work experience from the age of 14, he suggested. “This can really change their outlook.”
Hackney Police Superintendent Leroy Logan, a member of the board that advises the Government on questions involving the Caribbean community, told the conference that the faith sector must be part of the solution to gang violence.
“Get out there and find the talent in young people and nurture it. Let young people know they can change their environment — they don’t have to become part of it,” he told the assembled youth workers and church leaders.
Mark Prince, whose son Kiyan was stabbed to death in London in 2006, said: “We need to stop blaming others, whoever ‘others’ are. We need to step up ourselves and start being better role-models to young people.”
The Revd Steve Chalke, the founder of Oasis Global, said that Oasis had developed “hubs” around the country, where successful initiatives for young people could be replicated. One example was Southside radio in Waterloo. “During the four weeks it ran last summer, the local police confirmed that youth crime dropped significantly in SE1,” he said.