If, like me, you cut your teeth as a priest at the Elephant and Castle in the 1970s and went on to be a Tottenham vicar in the 80s, then you will of course cheer at Andy Cooke’s remarks (Tackle poverty and inequality to reduce crime, says police chief, 18 April). But there’s something depressing for me about reading this as front-page news, because Inequalities in Health: The Black Report (1982), The Scarman Report (1981), Faith in the City (1985), the RSA’s Spiritualise Report (2014) and a host of research projects have spelled out this crucial message compellingly for so long.
It’s not more social science data we need, it’s the will to act. I’m hoping the pandemic will remind us how wise it is to invest in our shared humanity, and how sensible to make policies of intelligent kindness our social priority.
• Andy Cooke is quite right, poverty is a great factor in increased crime. However, he also highlighted young people leaving education with no qualifications and no incentive to work at school, as education did not lead to employment for other members of their families. Our education system needs a rethink. The unskilled and low-skilled jobs have largely disappeared. Education must have a link with future employment, especially for the non-academic pupil. Practical skills need to be valued, and every child with a smartphone has IT skills that could be developed towards employment, and not just in a call centre.
The greatest challenge is the creation of work that will provide at least a living wage for those who would otherwise have no incentive to get up in the morning. Look around our cities and their high streets, which even before Covid had more charity shops than anything else. Regeneration must start with people, and people need work for their self-esteem.
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