The August 2011 riots in Manchester and Salford brought to the surface deep-seated and complex issues in our society, in which there were clear differences with the events that occurred in London. This demanded in-depth analysis.
The impact of the riots was felt at all levels in our community, and so reflection upon the causes and potential solutions not only provided, but necessitated, the forging of links in order to engage a wide range of people in a debate about fundamental social policy issues.
The riots raised some major questions about our society for which nobody that we spoke to had an easy answer. There was a consensus throughout the process, that the causes of the riots were complex and required suitably complex answers.
The Social Action & Research Foundation (SARF) has built upon the Guardian and London School of Economics’ Reading the Riots project and our co-hosted Community Conversations to develop extensive engagement with a diverse range of partners in Manchester and Salford. Drawing upon the lessons provided by the riots, this has led to recommendations that can strengthen and develop existing structures in order to bring positive, long-term and cost-effective solutions.
The Tale of Two Cities: Complex Causes, Complex Solutions report will be released on Friday at a launch event in Salford with Paul Lewis from the Guardian and includes contributions from Professor Tim Newburn of the London School of Economics and Sir Richard Leese – the leader of Manchester city council. The report sets out a framework that aims to develop communities that are better able to adapt, transform and deal with challenges as they arise, providing a vision for developing more resilient communities that are pro-active and work; that are supportive ; and that will provide the social structures required for people within Greater Manchester to fulfil their potential in this era of austerity.
In essence, the report suggests that in order to achieve this, we need to build upon pre-existing capabilities, creating more co-produced public services and developing a culture of early intervention, in the process challenging the very notion of a ‘Broken Britain’.
The Tale of Two Cities focuses on five main policy areas and puts forward potential recommendations within each area that contribute towards these aims. This includes developing a strengths-based and community-rooted model of family policy in order to enhance early intervention to create the protective environment required for children and families. In terms of young people, who were a major focus of the Community Conversations, SARF suggests that we need to improve young people’s resilience and develop their capabilities in order to provide the supportive conditions in which all young people can achieve their full potential. This includes improving literacy between transition from primary to secondary school, reducing school exclusions and tackling youth unemployment through an integrated strategic needs assessment that involves young people in developing the solutions that are required.
A common issue that arose throughout the whole Reading the Riots process has been policing. Whilst recognising the difficult challenges that face the police, the report recommends that the connection between the police and communities can be strengthened through enhancing democratic accountability and ensuring that a wide range of alternative perspectives are included within the process. We also suggest that Greater Manchester is in a unique position to build upon existing innovations in restorative justice, and should strengthen the support for victims and communities to play a more central role through an approach that aims to understand, rather than simply punish.
The national response to the riots has been inadequate and so therefore, with no leadership from government, we require solutions with a local and practical focus. To this end, SARF recommends a new approach to developing public policy that provides an over arching strategic framework, whilst allowing the space for creativity and flexibility required to enable the local expertise to flourish. If the government’s localism policy is to work in practice, then such lateral thinking will be needed.
The Social Action & Research Foundation has worked with communities, practitioners, academics and decision-makers in Salford and Manchester to develop public policy ideas to consider place-based solutions that improve the life prospects of many of our most disconnected communities. The government’s assertion that the riots were about ‘criminality pure and simple’ has been dismissed by the vast majority of people we spoke to throughout Manchester and Salford, and we believe these two great cities are well placed to respond to the complex challenges that were so shockingly presented last summer.