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"It's as if he's punished me, all his life, for his father dying"

Who are the teenagers spending their evenings under street lights? Are they the "yobs" who fuel John Major's rhetoric or simply kids with nowhere else to go? Wendy Wallace reports and below, tells one mother's. Jackie, 36, lives in south London with her second husband and four younger children. Her oldest son David, aged 15, is living nearby in a bed and breakfast hotel. Social services cannot find a children's home willing to take him.

"All this trouble started when David's natural father died, when he was five. He'd be forever fighting, or running out of school and I'd have to go and find him on the street. I've lost count of how many times he was suspended, and that was just from primary school.

"The school said he should see a child psychologist, but they just talked to me. It wasn't me who needed the help, it was David. I stopped going and they didn't bother to see him on his own.

"The school made it worse. Every time he did anything, they said it was because his Dad had died. He picked up on it. After a while, he used it as his excuse too.

"If I'd had help then, when I wanted it, he might have turned out different. We saw an educational psychologist and all she did was take him outside and ask him if I shut him in a cupboard or beat him with a stick or touched him in a sexual way.

"As it is, he got to his teens and that was it. My life was hell from then on. He'd be breaking into people's houses and sheds, nicking bikes, robbing people. I'd have people banging at my door all the time. In the past two years, he's run away 13 times. I nailed the windows shut - and it's a 20ft drop - but he just broke them open and was on his toes again.

"He's robbed me blind. He's stolen a colour telly from me, and money. Four months ago, he broke in here and stole a Pounds 277 Giro, which was meant to keep the rest of us for a fortnight. The phone rang at 2am and the sergeant said they'd arrested him for possession of cannabis. For the first time, I refused to go. I told them I'd had enough and they could lock him up and throw away the key. That was the only way I could get anything done.

"So the social worker turned up, this little pipsqueak of a girl, about 22-years-old, and had the cheek to condemn me. I really did bellow at her. In fact, my mum had to stand between us.

"Now social services give him money every day and they've bought him new clothes. He's taking the piss out of them. He can come and go as he pleases. If he's not drugged up to the eyeballs he's drunk. And that's the authorities. If they can't do anything with him, how do they expect me to?

"It's as if he's punished me, all his life, for his father dying. I've stood on the doorstep and lied for him, like any mother would. I've sworn blind he was in all night and couldn't have done it when I knew damn well he had.

"I love him. He's my son and that bond is still there. But I don't like him and I can't live with him. But in the end he didn't hesitate to throw a fist at me. Now I've got a 15-year-old kid somewhere out there who I can't control because no one would help me when I was screaming and crying for help."

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