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Chris Grayling: Tacking the "Jeremy Kyle Generation"

"Britain today remains a society dominated by men.

Glass ceilings can still be found in too many places.

There are not enough women in Parliament.

There are not enough women in the board room.

Women still lose out in our pensions system.

Our workplaces still do not offer women the flexibility they need to balance the different pressures of life.

Step by step we as a party are looking to change that.

That's why we are working so hard to get more Conservative women elected to Parliament.

That's why we are committed to greater levels of flexible working.

Later this week my colleague Theresa May will set out in a new policy document some of the challenges that policy makers still need to overcome if we are to secure the right deal for women.

So it might seem a strange choice to pick this moment to make a speech warning about the challenges facing men. Not all men. But it is a growing number. And they are challenges we simply cannot afford to ignore.

As a society, we're leaving a lot of men behind.

We have a growing generation of young men, alienated and drifting without a purpose in life.

Lacking a sense of responsibility and involvement.

This is not just about gangs on street corners.

It's about young men growing older with no clear understanding of how they can carve themselves a positive role in life.

Becoming fathers in name but not fathers in action. Struggling to find worthwhile work, if indeed they are looking for work at all. Developing mental health problems. Sometimes becoming homeless.

When someone charts the course of their life they need reference points, they need the experience of their family and of their peers, they need to understand the mechanics of going to school and then on to work.

In too many of our communities these reference points have vanished, and along with them, the hope of bettering ones self is disappearing.

In too many places, in too many communities, we have a Jeremy Kyle generation of young men reaching adult life ill-equipped for it.

Lacking the right social skills.

Lacking a sense of purpose and responsibility.

Lacking self-confidence.

Lacking the ability to seize on an opportunity and make the most of it.

And as a result turning against the society in which they live.

For too many of them, this is the beginnings of a permanent lifestyle. On the margins of society. Living hand to mouth on welfare. In some cases, supplementing their income with a little drug dealing, a bit of petty crime on the side.

In today's neglected class, you see the seeds of tomorrow's underclass. Drifting from despair to irresponsibility, from taking dings to peddling drugs, from aimless idleness to active criminality.

This is why we see so many young people being robbed and even murdered on the streets of our big cities today. That is why drug crime and violent crime are rife on our estates.

And what we witness today is a harbinger of what we will suffer tomorrow.

If we do not grip it now, we will not be able to cure it when every generation of our population suffer from this malaise.


From the earliest age, the structures that once surrounded young men have been corroded and in many cases simply don't exist any more.

Family break up often means that there is no father figure in childhood.

Teaching recruitment patterns often mean there are few male role models at school.

For those whose skills are not academic, the path into stable employment is much less clear than it was for past generations.

And so while the craft jobs of today are occupied en masse by young men from Eastern Europe, our own young men all too often hang around on the fringes, uncertain about where and how to build their lives.

Housing estates no longer surround large factories and other employment centres where generations of men worked. More particularly, globalisation has led to the inevitable export of low-skilled jobs to other parts of the world.

The job at the end of the road, and the footsteps in which to follow, aren't there in the way they once were.

The institutions that once cemented those communities together - the church or the chapel, the working men's club, the trades union branches no longer provide the same sense of structure that was once there.

And at the end of it all, we have much too much of a generation of young men growing up outside any kind of real social structure.

We need to ask ourselves some pretty serious questions about how this has come to be.

…what has happened to a society where we allow a generation of fathers-to-be to end up workless, loitering on the margins of society

…we need to ask ourselves how we have devised a system of state interventions which fail to re-engage so many young men.

…we need to ask whether it is right that we have built a society where we have come to fear many of our young men?

These questions pose a deeper concern, a concern about apathy: we seem content to accept that a good proportion of our young men won't ever grow to be active citizens.

Citizens who will make their lives better, their families lives better and their country's life better.

Instead we have come to fear them, we fear their gangs, their knives, their ASBOs and their crimes.

We're not alone in facing this problem in the developed world.

Other countries face similar challenges.

But in Britain it's become particularly acute.

And we seem to have accepted that this is just the way it is.

And that there's little that can be done to change it.

We seem to accept that our society can be built on an inequality of hope where the majority can get on with their lives, quite rightly, but that we consign towns worth of young men to a life where the best that they can hope for is dependency.

It is morally negligent to abandon so many young men, so, I want this speech to spark a debate about how to end the inequality of hope.

For all his talk of a moral compass, Gordon Brown's actions have undermined rather than strengthened the purpose and role of men in society.

The New Deal and the welfare programme have been inadequate, the criminal justice system too soft.

Some Government failings - like the malfunctioning of the Child Support Agency and the idiosyncracies of the tax credit and benefits system - have actually encouraged men not to take responsibility for their children.

A view that the state knows best, and a lack of concern for the fortunes of voluntary groups, especially those working on sporting and similar activities, reduces the prevalence of positive male role models.

And, too often our schools cater poorly for underperforming young men and provide too few positive role models.

It is failure of policy and leadership that have resulted in two great social problems of today: worklessness and educational disengagement or schoollessness.

For all of Labour's rhetoric about job creation, ten years of timid back to work projects and tinkering at the edges of welfare has failed to deal with the problem of inter-generational worklessness.

There is a real chance that in the next few years people will begin to claim their pension and never have worked in their lives.

With this government, there is usually an inverse relationship between the toughness of its language and the effectiveness of its measures.

Nowhere is this more true than in its welfare policies. For all its rhetoric Labour's schemes have not dealt with the scourge of worklessness.

Perhaps most extraordinary among all its failings is the fact that unemployment among the young is actually higher today than it was in 1997, despite all the money spent, despite all the jobs the Government says it has created.

And the problems are deep-rooted.

There are hundreds of thousands of homes up and down the country where no one has worked in living memory. The importance of this cannot be overdone: good intentions and an overdose of understanding have produced communities of institutionalised despair. There's nothing compassionate in abandonment: a life lived without the hope of betterment is a life half lived.

We know from all the academic evidence that children brought up in workless households are more likely to fail at school, more likely to end up workless themselves, and are more likely to get involved in antisocial behaviour and crime.

And in the depths of the figures there is a straightforward reality to be found. It is the men, far more than the women, who are struggling to find a role.

At school, boys are consistently doing less well than girls at all stages.

Between the ages of 18 and 24, more than twice as many men as women are claiming Jobseekers Allowance, and overall 75% of claimants are men.

The New Deal for Young People caters for twice as many men as women.

By the age of twenty-four, the number of young men claiming incapacity benefit is already outstripping the number of young women by ten thousand.

Only once they both reach the age of fifty does the gap close again.

The men in these figures spend their teenage years not learning and then spend years not earning.

Past generations grew up with the idea of going out to work, of working hard to get what they wanted, of going to school to get a good education all around them.

Generations of young men followed in their father's footsteps, in their craft, on their factory floor, in their family business.

In one in six households today, that experience no longer exists. In many communities this amounts to a street's worth of worklessness, not just one house.

Britain has a higher proportion of children brought up in workless households than any other country in Europe, including the new accession states of Eastern Europe.

The problem of endemic worklessness in many parts of our communities becomes a bigger and bigger problem as the generations pass.

And therein lies one of the biggest challenges of all - the way in which collective wisdom and experience was once passed down from generation to generation is rapidly disappearing.

Who else but from your parents do you get the idea of going out to work each day? And what if they never did so themselves?

What we're seeing is an inequality based on a complete lack of first-hand knowledge and understanding. There are now communities of people for whom work is no longer a role to be pursued but an alien concept for other people.

This problem is of course not just confined to the absence of work. People in one of the world's largest economies don't have a fulfilled education and then just decide to opt for unemployment. For many, the absence of schooling just leads directly to an absence of work.

When I visited a school in North Liverpool recently, one of the teachers told me about the problem they have of "schoollessness" -

On every year's roll there are a number of children who just never appear.

Whose parents never went to school themselves.

And who now don't bother to take their own children to school.

Who else but from your parents do you get the idea that working hard at school is the path to a better life. And what if they never worked hard at school themselves?

Bit by bit the structures that shape young men in particular for the rest of their lives are being eroded. The reference points they use to chart a course and the goal they have in mind have disappeared.

Every child should have the chance of a hopeful journey through their lives but hope is not just about ambition, it is only made real by hard work and equality of opportunity.

Hard work relies on seizing opportunities and being able to stick to boundaries, from the simplest of boundaries learned at school: what time should I turn up and what time should I go home.

I have talked to numerous activists in the voluntary sector who have told me stories of young people who simply don't understand that you have to turn up for work on time every day, and that if you're not well and can't get to work, then you have to tell someone.

Nor can the law easily enforce boundaries today. I know of police officers who struggle to deal with groups of young men in leafy Surrey - let alone in our more challenging City areas. On Friday night I spoke to a Magistrate who said that twenty years ago, when the police asked a group of young men to move on, they did. Today all too often they won't. The law no longer makes it easy to administer an initial rap on the knuckles to a young offender.

That's because all too often when young men push at the boundaries, they find that they move outwards. That there is no real consequence of stepping out of line.

And when the boundary moves out, so do they.

Last year I spent two days working in secondary schools with an organisation called Skillforce, which uses former officers in the armed forces to go into schools and work with young people - mostly young men - who are in some shape or form coming off the rails. I was hugely impressed by what they do.

I spent time with one particular group of fifteen year olds who had been excluded from school, and were living their lives on the fringes of the gang culture of the area.

We spent time in the classroom, and time playing five a side football with them. It was something of a relief to find that at the age of 45 and not being of slender physique, I could still keep up with them in the Sports Hall.

There was one young man in particular who I did some one to one work with. He lacked self-confidence in school, clearly mixed in some rough groups and I have no doubt that he spends his weekends causing trouble on the streets. Yet on a one to one basis, he gave me the impression that he should never have been the kind of young man who ran into problems. I rather liked him.

And it seemed to me that from what I found out about him that the most glaring missing in his life was an ever-present father figure.

Someone to set and enforce boundaries.

Someone to be a bit of a role model before teenage rebellion sets in.

Someone to stand up to a growing boy and say No.

And yet for far too many young men that simply is alien as a concept to the lives they lead.

The lack of fathers is a huge problem for all of us.

And when those young men become fathers themselves, the knowledge of how to set boundaries for their own children will equally be absent.

We have more and more young men who have no idea how to be good fathers themselves.

At the same time, many outside influences on the lives of young men are proving negative rather than positive.

Our young boys are too often drawing lessons about life from footballers and celebrities who behave in monstrously inappropriate ways. There are, of course, footballers who do great work in the community and set a worthy example on and off the pitch.

But it is also true that many footballers who are earning more in a week than many families will see in a year get themselves arrested, pick fights, take drugs and set a rotten example. Their selfish antics are then replicated by young people.

Footballers like Joey Barton, and footballing antics like the Manchester United Christmas Party hardly set the right example to the young men who watch them. Now we know that when United players step out of line, Sir Alex is no pussy cat in dealing with the situation.

But of course for many young men who get into trouble, there is no such figure waiting to clamp down when things get out of hand.

And that is a very big part of the problem.

Teamwork is another way in which young men learn to grow up. It seems that the young men with the least hope are those who are joining a dreadful, corrupted sort of team, gangs.

Where teamwork can be a tremendous force for good it can, if left undirected, become a feral, tribal, force for bad.

Team sports, with winners and losers, are good for young men. For one thing it tires them out.

It teaches them lessons about working with other people towards a goal, it teaches them about the value of sacrifice and collective endeavour.

I think it is a tragedy that young primary school boys play football on a Saturday or Sunday in parks up and down the country - but by the time most reach teenage years, they drop out of organised team sport.

Moreover, teamwork gives people a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is what we hear a corrupted version of when people account for their gang membership.

That's why Jeremy Hunt has announced changes in the lottery that will enable the next Conservative government to fund more sport.

We need to reclaim the virtue of teamwork for those with the least hope in our society.

That's exactly why one of the first things David Cameron did as leader was to begin work on the establishment of National Citizen Service, launched last year in Amir Khan's gym, which will teach young men (and women) a sense of discipline, self-respect and ambition.

When he launched the idea David spoke about a programme that would help those young people become responsible adult citizens, to fulfil their duties to themselves, their families and their communities, and to play a positive part in national life? National Citizen Service will give them the opportunity, guidance and mentoring to achieve that.

For many people one of the most annoying aspects of this whole problem with young men is that many of those who are causing problems for society are being paid for by society.

People don't think it is fair that they can get away with just hanging around - supported by the benefits system.

If you're under 21 and you're not medically unable to do so, you should be doing something useful every day to carve out a positive role for the rest of your life.

There should be no place in modern Britain for young men with a cocky sense of entitlement to claim their sixty quid once a week and then spend the rest of their time making peoples' lives a misery.

And the problems won't stop in youth.

Those young men will get older.

Some will sort themselves out in the end.

But many will not.

And that is a path that leads to continuing problems through life.

Sporadic experience of work.

All too frequent addiction problems.


Sometimes criminality.

Sometimes mental illness.

Lives unfulfilled.

And a very poor legacy to the next generation.

There are no easy answers and easy solutions to the problems I've talked about.

But that doesn't mean that there are no answers.

The Conservative approach to ending the inequality of hope and providing positive male roles in the future needs us to deliver change in three key areas. First, we need to provide leadership in government to create a climate for the social entrepreneurs to flourish and re-engage young men. Second, we need to promote positive, socially responsible male role models and third, we need practical measures to combat family breakdown, worklessness and poor educational opportunity.

Our first area of focus, then, is that Governments alone can't put hope back but they can show leadership and deliver a positive climate for the social entrepreneurs. There are awe inspiring examples all over the country of communities that have managed to re-engage their young men.

There are urban heroes like Captain Dave Sharples, who's taken me to some of the most challenging streets in Toxteth, and whose work is changing so many lives. There are charities and voluntary organisations who are sewing hope into estates up and down the country.

If we are to end the inequality of hope and make British poverty history then Government needs to fulfil its side of the bargain and create the right climate for the urban heroes to do their work.

Second, we need to be much less tolerant of misbehaviour by those whose public profile can set an example that leads younger people astray. Social responsibility among those who are heroes is a crucial part of providing examples of behaviour for young men.

Thirdly, we will need practical policies to tackle the causes of the broken society.

We will need policies that help reduce family breakdown. So, we will end the couple penalty in the tax credit system.

We will need policies that help to combat worklessness. So, we will introduce a radical programme of welfare reform to break down the dependency culture and get people into work.

And there are other changes that can help make a difference.

We will need more male teachers in our schools, particularly our primary schools.

We need earlier intervention to help children who are struggling at primary school.

We will need to tackle the alienation of so many 14-16 year old boys from a purely academic school curriculum.

We will need zero tolerance of unacceptable behaviour and criminality. We need police and a legal system that can get tough when they need to and which are much freer to set clear boundaries.

And yes we need more apprenticeships - but not the reannouncement again and again of the same new investment in the same new apprenticeships. And not the kind of apprenticeship that Gordon Brown seems to be creating, where little or no work is actually done in the workplace.

These three areas are where we need to focus our attention to allow those men to begin to carve out new and more fulfilling roles for themselves in the future. All young men need to have the hope that they can better themselves and their families.

Too many of them are suffering from the inequality of hope we have designed into our society.

They need to have hope for a better life and they need the right support to get them there.

Right now, for too many young men it all seems futile and irrelevant."

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