While searching for health news stories this morning, I came across a disturbing article about a young family, who have decided to move away from their home in West London for fear gang violence and culture is quite literally too close to home.
I glanced at the comments and saw many people were unsympathetic, simply because this family looked well-heeled and middle class. Others were reactionary saying what did they expect , choosing to live in an urban "ghetto"?
Well I live in another London suburb which, although far less salubrious, is still a very green and pleasant area.
Attracting plenty of ordinary and hardworking young families I can regrettably vouch for the fact the violence is happening here, too. A friend of mine was attacked by a small group of youths while walking down the road to pick up her children from school. They whacked her in the face and body, then walked off laughing. Obviously shaken and upset, she put a brave face on this savage and unprovoked attack and viewed it as a one-off. The local police, although sympathetic, didn't rush out to arrest anyone as my friend wasn't sure what they looked like (other than the fact they wore hoodies).
However, the following week it became obvious who they were as when leaving a local cafe the same youths spotted her and taunted her from across the street.
This is why I support Charlie Taylor's recommendation to the government today to encourage early intervention measures from the age of two. Living in a society of fragmented families, it does appear that some children are growing up with no clear idea of what's right or wrong. Even more worryingly, some children do know what's wrong, but simply don't care. I suspect my friend's attackers fall into the latter category.
This is also why organisations like the charity 4Children deserve our support. Their "Give Me Strength" campaign highlighted the fact that a majority of British families feel stressed and many cope better if offered increased support before problems turn into a full blown crisis. The youths who attacked my friend probably had difficult family backgrounds themselves - a reasonable assumption given that they were hanging out on a street corner when they should have been at school!
I believe that early intervention measures - where families struggling to cope for all sorts of reasons are offered compassionate help and support - are a step in the right direction. If the help is non-judgemental as well as empowering (as it needs to be to reach the "hard to reach") then all the better. Critics may argue that two is far too early to single out future "problem" children from the typical age-related tantrums two year olds are renowned for!
However, the body of evidence is growing that children do display certain traits and characteristics at this tender early age - and a health professional specialising in this area should be trained to spot these early signs effectively. At worst, it's worth giving it a go - and hopefully the results should benefit us all.
Written by Penny Hosie Comment on this blog by sending it to: firstname.lastname@example.org