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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005, 01:08 GMT
Scrap Asbo call after rural study
Skateboard park
The report is critical of a lack of facilities for rural young people
Anti-social behaviour orders should be abolished as part of efforts to end isolation among the young in rural areas, a study has said.

A Howard League for Penal Reform report into social deprivation and rural youth crime in the West Country said the young were often regarded as a threat.

As well as replacing Asbos with community projects, the report demanded more transport and leisure facilities.

It found that many young offenders had moved from urban to rural areas.

Author Rosie Meek said the report - Social Deprivation and Rural Youth Crime - "exploded the myth" that growing up in a rural location was nothing but beneficial for children and young people.

"Young people growing up in rural communities are feeling isolated and marginalised. They feel like outsiders in their own communities," she said

The only way to improve anti-social and low level offending is to embrace young people and start including them
Frances Crook
Howard League for Penal Reform

Within a rural setting, young people were highly visible and therefore more readily stigmatised, the report said, but at the same time they were "invisible" in terms of research, service delivery and policy.

The research for the study was done in a small town in Somerset, and also among a pool of young offenders from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

Many of the young people surveyed complained of a lack of anything to do, with 40% saying they would "hang around" in streets or public places three or more times a week.

And 77% of those questioned agreed with the statement "adults in my community see young people as a problem".

The Howard League's report said local and national agencies had been slow to tackle the needs of the town's youth and others like them.

"Less than half [of those surveyed] claimed to have heard of Connexions, the government's integrated support service for 13-19 year olds.

"This figure reflects a low awareness of and access to service provision within the community," the report stated.

Hard drugs

The report concluded that in many ways rural youth appeared to share the same concerns as their urban peers and faced the same problems, particularly with regard to drug use.

"The growth rate is now higher in some rural communities than in urban areas and hard drugs are widely available in most rural communities," the study stated.

Three-quarters of those questioned said adults saw them as a "problem". Most cited lack of facilities for young people as their biggest obstacle.

The lack of things to do other than hang around in public spaces sometimes led to "offending behaviour", the study concluded - 22 of those surveyed were currently in prison after committing a variety of minor offences.

Howard League director Frances Crook said it was time to "remove the rose-tinted glasses" and face the reality of an impoverished rural childhood.

"In these circumstances young people find ways to amuse themselves and do things that others disapprove of.

"The only way to improve anti-social and low level offending is to embrace young people and start including them and involving them in rural communities," she said.

Rural areas 'lack key services'
10 Dec 04 |  England

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