Speech to the Centre for Social Justice, London 2006
David Cameron (Conservative)
It's always a pleasure to speak to the CSJ.
On my first day as leader I went with Iain to the East Side Young Leaders Academy - an inspirational project working with black boys at risk of crime.
And the first of the policy groups I set up was Iain's, looking at all the full range of social justice issues.
For the Conservative Party I'm leading, social justice is a vital issue.
The reason is simple: the degree of social injustice in our country.
One of the worst aspects of social injustice that people face is the fear and suffering caused by crime and disorder.
In many communities, it's doing more to wreck the sense of general well-being than just about anything else.
Everywhere I go, it seems to be the same story.
People frightened to go out for a drink on a Friday or Saturday night because town centres turn into war zones.
Neighbourhoods wrecked by vandalism, graffiti and a less tangible, but perhaps more damaging, sense of menace in the air.
The complaints are identical.
Young people are out of control.
There's nothing for them to do.
Why can't their parents do their job properly?
Today I want to talk about how we solve these problems for the long term.
Too often, the debate is about short-term solutions: ASBOs, curfews and criminal justice.
Of course, we need these things to protect the public from anti-social behaviour today.
But my aim is a society where we need them less and less.
The long-term answer to anti-social behaviour is a pro-social society where we really do get to grips with the causes of crime.
Family breakdown, drugs, children in care, educational underachievement - these provide the backdrop to too many lives and can become the seed bed of crime.
Let me start by saying something about a part of the world I know well.
You heard earlier from Femi, the star of Kidulthood.
That film is set in my own neighbourhood in London - North Kensington, Ladbroke Grove, Harrow Road.
It's a very different Notting Hill from the one you see in Richard Curtis films.
The film gives a disturbing insight into the pressures that teenagers round there are under.
The fact is, it's frightening for a man in a suit to walk down certain streets at night.
But think how much more frightening it must be for a child.
Kidulthood is not really about bad kids.
Even the villain is clearly suffering from neglect and the absence of love.
The characters are simply children in circumstances none of us would want to grow up in.
Their reaction to those circumstances is not good.
But it is natural.
Crime, drugs, underage sex - this behaviour is wrong, but simply blaming the kids who get involved in it doesn't really get us much further.
It is what the culture around them encourages.
Imagine a housing estate with a little park next to it.
The estate has "no ballgames" and "no skateboarding" notices all over it.
The park is just an empty space.
And then imagine you are 14 years old, and you live in a flat four storeys up.
It's the summer holidays and you don't have any pocket money.
That's your life.
What will you get up to today?
Take in a concert, perhaps? Go to a football game? Go to the seaside?
No - you're talking £30 or £50 to do any of that.
You can't kick a ball around on your own doorstep.
So what do you do?
You hang around in the streets, and you are bored, bored, bored.
And you look around you.
Who isn't bored?
Who isn't hanging around because they don't have any money?
Who has the cars, the clothes, the power?
As Femi's character in the film found, even if you're not interested in crime, it's difficult to avoid the culture.
Of course, not everyone who grows up in a deprived neighbourhood turns to crime - just as not everyone who grows up in a rich neighbourhood stays on the straight and narrow.
Individuals are responsible for their actions - and every individual has the choice between doing right and doing wrong.
But there are connections between circumstances and behaviour.
It's easy to feel pessimistic when you see that film.
But I think that's the wrong response.
We can't just give up in despair.
We've got to believe we can do something about the terrible problems of youth crime and disorder.
We've got be optimistic about young people, otherwise we'll forever be dealing with the short-term symptoms instead of the long-term causes.
And I think there are three things that are vital if we're to make all our communities safe and give every young person the chance they deserve.
The first thing is to recognise that we'll never get the answers right unless we understand what's gone wrong.
Understanding the background, the reasons, the causes.
It doesn't mean excusing crime but it will help us tackle it.
In that context I want to say something about what is, for some, a vivid symbol of what has gone wrong with young people in Britain today: hoodies.
In May last year, hoodies became political.
The Bluewater shopping centre banned them, and the Prime Minister said he backed the ban.
I actually think it's quite right for politicians to debate these matters.
But debating the symptoms rather than the causes won't get us very far.
Because the fact is that the hoodie is a response to a problem, not a problem in itself.
We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters.
But, for young people, hoodies are often more defensive than offensive.
They're a way to stay invisible in the street.
In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in, don't stand out.
For some, the hoodie represents all that's wrong about youth culture in Britain today.
For me, adult society's response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right.
Camila Bhatmanghelidj, of the visionary social enterprise, Kids Company, understands.
In her new book, Shattered Lives, there is an account of a girl whose pastime it was to "steal smiles", as she put it.
To viciously hurt people in the street who she saw smiling.
It's the only thing that would give her pleasure.
Of course we should condemn her behaviour.
But that's the easy part.
Because if you knew that that girl had suffered years of abuse and neglect from her family, and years of institutional indifference from the social services you would begin to understand that there is more to life on the streets than simple crime and simple punishment.
That girl is getting better now, thanks to the deep understanding and patient work of Kids Company.
She still struggles - Kids Company don't do miracles.
But she's not offending any more and she's just completed a course with the Prince's Trust.
So when you see a child walking down the road, hoodie up, head down, moody, swaggering, dominating the pavement - think what has brought that child to that moment.
If the first thing we have to do is understand what's gone wrong, the second thing is to realise that putting things right is not just about law enforcement.
It's about the quality of the work we do with young people.
It's about relationships.
It's about trust.
Above all, it's about emotion and emotional development.
Of course we should never excuse teenage crime, or tolerate the police ignoring it.
We need tough sanctions, protection and punishment.
And if the phrase "social justice" is to be meaningful, it has to be about justice, as well as compassion and kindness.
It has to involve a sense of cause and consequence - of just rewards and just deserts.
One of the most important things we can teach our children is a sense of justice.
Too many young people have no understanding of consequences - of the idea that actions have effects.
This is bad enough for us - wider society, who have to suffer the crime and cost of delinquency.
But it is truly disastrous for them - the children themselves.
Young criminals became older criminals, and they end up with wrecked lives, wrecked relationships, in prison, on drugs - either dead or with such a bad start in life they never really recover.
So we have to have justice - we have to fight crime firmly and completely.
Justice is about setting boundaries, and stepping over those boundaries should have painful consequences.
But that's not the whole answer.
To build a safe and civilised society for the long term, we have to look at what goes on inside the boundaries.
If the consequence of stepping over the line should be painful, then staying within the bounds of good behaviour should be pleasant.
And I believe that inside those boundaries we have to show a lot more love.
We have to think about the emotional quality of the work we do with young people.
That's where you, the social entrepreneurs, the voluntary organisations - the people doing the patient, painstaking work on the ground with young people - come in.
If the police and criminal justice system guard the boundaries of acceptable behaviour - patrolling the territory beyond the pale - then community groups populate the interior.
If the police stand for sanctions and penalties, you stand for love.
And not a soppy love! I don't see anyone soppy here.
But it is about relationships.
It is about emotional security.
It is about love.
It seems sometimes that when it comes to these difficult social issues, we're obsessed with measuring the quantity of inputs.
How much money.
How many more staff.
Whether targets are met.
But if we're really serious about the issues, we should be measuring quality as well as quantity.
What is the quality of the care and support we give young people?
We sometimes see young people described as "feral", as if they have turned wild.
But no child is ever really feral.
No child is beyond recovery, beyond civilisation.
That girl who stole smiles, who suffered so much, and who made others suffer so much, is getting better now.
It is an achievement that the police, or prison, or government itself rarely manages.
The brilliance of Kids Company, or the East Side Young Leaders Academy, or the other fantastic charities and social enterprises like them is that they can provide the love that is needed to begin to restore a young person to health and happiness.
And that brings me to the third point I wanted to make today.
To tackle youth crime and disorder for the long term, we will have to place real trust in the hands of the people and organisations that understand the challenges young people face, and can offer the quality of care and emotional support they need.
We've heard a lot over the past few years about a partnership between government and the voluntary sector.
Too often, the reality is that for "partnership" you can read "takeover."
If we're serious about the social sector doing more, then government and the public sector has to learn to let go.
To let the social sector and social entrepreneurs take wings and soar.
It has to say to the youth club teaching kids excluded from school the drug rehab with the best record of helping young people get clean and stay clean or the faith-based charity bringing discipline and purpose to the chaotic lives of parents who've lost control...
Our record is lousy; yours is great - so you should be in charge.
Over the past few years, we've seen the opposite - a massive expansion in the state sector.
That's especially true in the Home Office.
In the end, it comes down to a question of values.
There are two values at the heart of modern Conservatism.
Trusting people, and sharing responsibility.
And it's the intersection of those values that provides the right way forward.
We want to share responsibility for tackling youth crime and anti-social behaviour because we believe that we're all in this together.
That we'll never get to grips with the problem if we leave it all to the police and the criminal justice system.
But sharing responsibility doesn't mean a fuzzy compromise where no-one is really accountable.
It means really handing over power.
Because we also believe in trusting people, we want to let them get on with what they do best.
It's exactly the approach I've taken in developing an idea I put forward nearly a year ago¿the idea of a national school leaver programme.
I'm passionate about its potential to bring our country together and give every young person in Britain a sense of purpose, optimism and belonging.
But I didn't sit down in my office and write a blueprint for how it would work.
I brought together the real experts, leaders in youth work from over twenty different voluntary organisations.
We discussed my proposal.
They gave their views.
And now they're in the driving seat.
A new charity has been set up, called the Young Adult Trust.
It has adapted my initial suggestions.
And a pilot programme will soon be underway.
I've played my part, helping to secure funding and bringing the right people together.
But I'm not pretending I've got the answers.
My job is to give a lead, not to take control.
So today I don't just want to encourage you personally in the fantastic work that you do.
I want you to know that a government I lead will give you the freedom to do it.
Your work in the community, among the most difficult and the most marginalised of our children, is a central component of improving our society's sense of general well-being.
Of course we need to be tough on crime and tough on youth offending.
But we must also follow the three principles I've set out today.
Understanding what's gone wrong in order to put things right.
Giving priority to the emotional quality of the work we do with young people.
And giving real power to the real experts who can make the biggest difference...
If we follow these principles, if we approach this challenge with a sense of optimism and hope...
I know we can make our country a safe and civilised place for everyone to live.