The Shadsworth Amongst Us

Panorama, BBC1, 11/09/2012, 9pm, ‘Trouble on the Estate’

(Shadsworth Estate, Blackburn)

I actually started to cry as once again I watch an individual with learning and other disabilities try to live independently in our society, only to be tormented, picked on, harassed and psychologically tortured by youth with nothing better to do. Where was the support, where was the assistance, where was the common sense that it’s not just our vulnerable adults that need help, the very children torturing these vulnerable individuals are themselves at risk, they are growing up with no sense of community, humanity and citizenship. They have nothing to do but to bunk off school and torture those they can get away with torturing, like some non-uniformed junior Nazi’s, learning from their elders that its ok to do what you want and think of self and only self.

There just weren’t positive role models for children being permanently excluded, junior school children telling teachers to “f-off” and dealing out violence, only to get home and have a mother say, “what good does it do to punish him”, so he learns this behaviour is OK. No positive role models at all, none! So they look to their elder adolescents to show them the skills they need in life, and our most vulnerable children become lost to these created devils of the estate.

The role models these children as young as 4 or 5, left to literally roam the streets by day and even night, they quickly learn from statements such as:

“Work is just a headache”

“Nothing for no one here”

“Common sense to take benefit and not to work”

“Wanted to be a fire fighter but ended up being an arsonist”

“Wake up in the morning, have a bath and a spliff”

Even with the average weekly wage being the lowest in the country, most of the youth on the estates just didn’t work, people that did work were picked on, persecuted for not being ‘normal’, but yet there was money aplenty for booze, fags, skunk and bubble, plenty of money but role models of a positive nature were nowhere to be seen. I was mortified and horrified that in 2012 we can put together the most complex event on earth in the UK, hold up heroes & heroines to the nation but yet at the ‘estate’ level there is only doom and gloom, negativity and gangs of self-fulfilling their own reinforcement of morose, even moronic lives with no purpose.

So of course they take drugs, of course they drink, better than thinking, better than finding a way to break the cycle, better to just not bother and apply any energy that does manage to escape the cognitive darkening of ‘skunk’, is just spent to make life hell for others. Do I blame these youth, well yes, they do have options but it’s just not what they want, so they do make an active choice, they do chose to be negative, and they must be held responsible for their actions, especially when behaviour like human persecution and torture is apparent – disgusting, just plain disgusting.

By those in a position to influence change have done nothing to improve the situation – 65,000 disability hate crimes, HELLO! When will our pompous political, ostentatious, well to do Politicians see change has to happen for these estates and all those on them? Now we have spent billions on the games to show what is achievable through regeneration, then surely we can effect lasting change to these hellish backwater of lost hope and lost youth. Billions more is being spent yearly to send things like a Mars rover the size of a Mini Cooper to the planets above, yet our primary school children are left behind on every level. I do not support the need to explore space when there is so much we need to do right here, right in the UK.

We need schemes to get these youth involved in projects they want to engage in, especially if schools feel they are beyond their remit. What about getting these young people to help build what they want on the estate, they all seem to like BMX Bikes (sorry for the generalisation), so support them to build a BMX Racing Park; like skateboarding then help us build you a skateboard park; like playing on the Xbox, PS2 & 3, then let’s organise a competition; the opportunities are endless. So they learn how to create and not destroy, they learn to build up and not tear down, they have ownership developed, pride and best of all it allows ‘us’ to introduce positive role models via these development ventures. It also puts money into the local economy in many ways and on many levels, supply chain, jobs creation (not that some want them), apprenticeships, etc.

But it goes deeper than this, it means that everyone on an estate can take a piece and call it theirs, that this estate is theirs, not to use as a fortress where police needs to roam in pairs with the protection of a vehicle, not a gang zone for drugs and violence to breed like a virus of viciousness and inhumanity; no, theirs to be owned and actually, maybe, if we work hard, and overcome the negatives we will experience along the way, then and just then may the residents actually start to feel proud, to feel positive, to feel they have a positive investment where they live. It will take a couple of generations to achieve that but eventually, if we just try, then perhaps the violence, the crime and the negative human detritus will move to foul somewhere else, like in the sewers where they belong. I genuinely believe if we start by saying what do you want on your estate, and as long as you help create it the state will fund it, this will effect change, slow, hard fought change for the better, over decades perhaps but what are the alternatives?

These films you see of a future where huge areas are walled, not for protection but to keep people in, is that the construction projects we really want on estates, is that the future we want for a generation to come? Well I for one would rather use those same bricks and mortar to engage and build a better future, invest in these estates, eventually you will even save money in the criminal system, invest in the people there by letting them chose what happens. We have heard so much about the ‘big society’, about energising communities, well damn well do it and make a start on stopping the rot and decay that reeks of witlessness by those in power in successive Governments, who only even acknowledge the problem when all hell breaks loose on these estates, then the only attention is to score political points of each other in the game of who is toughest on the law and order agenda.

Before I finish I want to make one final point with regards to the people that are trying to be independent and just left to their own devises, I have the following observations:

  1. What the hell are Social Care doing putting such vulnerable people on such estates, are the decision makers looking for more headlines about deaths and suicides of the vulnerable?!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. Why do people think that independent living means that people don’t need positive human engagement, there is this drive to increase the use of IT and adaptations to replace expensive human care (well that’s how they think). The technology and assistive adaptions should minimise the need for intrusive care but please don’t use it as an excuse to remove care altogether as people need human contact; by this I do not mean the thugs pushing through the letterbox dog faeces either, I mean the emotional warmth of a person who comes in for a coffee and asks, “who are you?” and just spends some time with another person.

Don’t wait for another headline, do something about these vulnerable people to support them to lead a safe independent live, and that is not a contradiction in any way, and I also mean the children of these estates before another generation is lost to drugs, crime, drugs and more crime.