Thousands of our members live and work in the communities that have been hit by the vandalism and looting of recent days. Tragically many people have lost their homes, and many more their workplace, potentially their job and income too.
We echo the words of the Fire Brigades Union, “these events illustrate the bravery and commitment of London’s firefighters, and the entire capital will be grateful to them”. Our emergency services in London and other cities have once again shown that they play a vital role in protecting the public.
Public sector workers, from police community support officers to welfare advisers and from teachers to youth workers, will have a huge role to play in rebuilding and in maintaining a sense of community. The government has spent recent months disrespecting these workers and attacking their jobs, pensions and pay; it is time for that to stop and for them to recognise their valuable contribution to society.
As communities clear up, we have to step back and recognise these disturbances did not happen in a vacuum. It is not condoning violence to say that simply dismissing this as ‘mindless criminality’ is to give up on our responsibility to look for causes and solutions.
Youth unemployment is at its highest level on record, and further and higher education costs are set to soar. Public services are being slashed in many communities with councils cutting youth services and eligibility to housing. Welfare cuts and privatisation mean jobcentres are being closed and benefit cuts are causing anguish and hardship to many.
Our society is more unequal than at any point since the 1930s. There will be those who will call for tougher sentencing and more police powers, but these will not solve the very deep problems facing our country. As PCS has argued, we need investment to create the jobs and build the infrastructure that our communities need.
We should also resist attempts to demonise young people in general. They have been the biggest victims of this recession. The lawlessness of the financial and political elites is a much larger problem that our society must address.
In the coming days and weeks, we must address the complex issues that have led to the recent days’ incidents across London and elsewhere, and caused so many to be rightly shocked and appalled.
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