Monday 16 November 2015

Local government cuts and offering alternatives to those attracted by ISIS

Guest blog by Scott Bartle
Friday 13th was an eventful day as it was in the morning that David Cameron explained how he’d worked ‘hand in glove’ with the USA to execute Mohammed Emwazi in Syria, where we are not ‘at war’. This was a man that walked the same streets as us in Brent, perhaps buying food from the same checkouts and was described by those that knew him as a ‘nice guy’ before adopting the moniker ‘Jihadi-John’. Meanwhile, in the afternoon over at Woolwich Crown Court 19 year old Yahya Rashid from Willesden who had left the country to join ISIS was found guilty of terrorism charges. As the guilty verdict was given to Yahya, in France final preparations were being made by ISIS to attack Paris. After the mass-murders French Gendarme conveniently found a passport upon a perpetrator matching one shown by someone who identified as a refugee in Greece. However, other reports from the media indicate that the majority of others involved in the Paris attacks were more like Yahya Rashid, considered ‘home-grown’.

It’s beyond most of our capacity to do anything about a foreign policy so reliant upon fossil fuels we’ve contributed towards conflict over its supply since WW1. From the Baghdad Railway, to the overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddegh of Iran in 1953 to the wars in Iraq and the funding of ISIS to topple President Assad in Syria, it can feel pretty stuck. However, within our grasp we do have the power to offer alternatives to people from our communities who may be leaving our communities to get involved with ISIS. We must recognise that ISIS is merely a gang for those in a multi-cultural world who are better connected. 

The myth of the ‘five star jihad’ is pervasive as recruits like those from Birmingham leave clutching their copies of ‘Islam for Dummies’ from Amazon. On social media images are posted of a hiphop lifestyle of five-star hotels, hanging with their friends, driving smart cars offering a perception that there will be more opportunities with the ladies. This is the allure of stuff, people looking for material things, love or a sense of community and belonging. These are life-goals shared by many that people have become disaffected in their ability to reach, and see joining ISIS as a more achievable way to meet their needs. What to do about these things hasn’t changed since 1936 when Winifred Holtby highlighted Local Government as the ‘first-line of defence thrown up by the community against our common enemies – poverty, sickness, ignorance, isolation, mental derangement and social maladjusment’. 

What’s changed is the ability of our elected representatives to recognise this and that cuts in the short term equate to costs – both financially and socially in the long term. 

More often than not adults who make choices to get involved with crime have had behaviour considered ‘anti-social’ or ‘challenging’ since childhood. Research aggregated by Professor Martin Knapp of the London School of Economics estimated that the cost of conduct related crime in England to range from £22.5bn to £60bn a year, and £1.1-1.9m over the lifetime of a single offender. 

These costs on the public sector are distributed across many agencies and are around 10 times high than children with no behaviour problems. Yet research has found that gross savings over 25 years from an intervention provided from services can exceed the average cost of the intervention by a factor of around 8 – 1. We need to recognise that despite this money being spread across many agencies it is still our tax money that is being lost. Local Government needs to recognise it’s likely to be around for ever and start operating on long term plans. As last month’s decision by the Labour run council to engage in ‘savage’ short-sighted cuts to youth services See LINK  or destroying places like Stonebridge Adventure Playground could cost us all dearly. 

Scott Bartle stood as The Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Brent North in 2015 and is a behaviour psychologist who works in forensic services. 

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