Curfews are not the answer

17th July 1998 at 01:00
Does society have a problem with our youth or is it our youth who have a problem with society? The Scottish Human Rights Centre poses the question following its analysis of the much publicised Hamilton curfew. It is a good question and a long-standing one.

The curfew on young people out late at night appears little more than an exercise in political and police posturing, has been scaled down since it was introduced last October, has little impact on young people's behaviour and in fact increases their alienation. This is unlikely in the long term to be good news for local schools.

Asking young people why they continue to hang about street corners produces equally typical answers. You would expect them to say there is nothing to do, and they do. Sixty-two per cent of 12 to 16-year-olds reported there was nothing to do in the housing schemes. Youth work provision is low. A second survey conducted throughout Scotland by Save the Children confirms the finding.

If there is a problem with young people hanging around, getting into trouble and causing difficulties for the neighbourhood, the solution is more likely to lie in channelling them into positive activities. South Lanarkshire's commitment to inject Pounds 3 million into leisure facilities in the Hamilton area is more likely to bring results, especially if it is very local provision young people feel belongs to them. A sense of ownership is vital to answer the opening question.

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