Anti-social behaviour is a scourge that Britain seems unable to shake off. It comes in various forms – including vandalism, drunkenness, theft and violence – most recently so-called ‘happy slapping’ where attacks are filmed on a mobile phone. On some days, up to 66,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour are recorded in the kingdom. So what is being done to stop it? Prime Minister Tony Blair has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach. A key weapon in his armoury is the Anti-Social Behaviour Order or ASBO. It is a civil court order aimed at preventing people aged 10 or over from committing anti-social acts. It can restrict an individual’s movements, for example, or the company he or she keeps. But the success rate is limited. The orders are breached in over 40 per cent of cases and although doing so can, in theory, lead to a prison sentence, it hardly ever does.
In a bid to tackle the problem at source, Blair’s Labour government has made efforts to give young people a better start in life – investing in education and against social exclusion. But despite that, a low unemployment rate and steady growth in the economy, the UK has one of the highest child poverty rates among rich countries.
Labour is keen to point out that it has lifted hundreds of thousands of youngsters out of poverty since it came to power but over 15 per cent still live in households whose income is below 50 per cent of the national average. The UK’s record may be better than that of Italy with over 16 per cent but it is far behind Denmark’s 2.4 per cent rate.
Increasing the child poverty risk, the UK also has the highest teenage birth rate in Western Europe. By targeting social deprivation, Blair wants to go to the root of what is seen as an underlying cause of many of British society’s problems. He has pledged, by the year 2020, to have eradicated child poverty completely.