The Big Society, children’s citizenship and the youth justice system

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Before becoming Prime Minister David Cameron described troubled young people as ‘… more often defensive than offensive’ and in need of ‘compassion and kindness’ (Cameron 2006: 4-5). The Prime Minister has characterized the Big Society as a means of mending ‘societally Broken Britain’ by tackling the root causes of poverty and criminality and emphasizing that ‘what matters most to a child’s life chances is not the wealth of their upbringing but the warmth of their parenting’ (Cameron 2010). However in the wake of the August 2011 riots, the Prime Minister now believes that challenging, and disciplining, families and young people is the starting point for ‘mending the broken society’. David Cameron blamed the riots on, amongst other things, a lack of ethics, morals and upbringing (Cameron 2011). Subsequently, in the Big Society young people who offend are perceived as responsible active citizens who are accountable for their behavior and deserving of punishment and no longer worthy of protection as children. This paper will examine the way in which changing conceptions of citizenship have impacted upon and consequently re-shaped the contemporary youth justice system in England and Wales. I will consider whether the rhetoric of the Big Society offers the prospect of a new approach to young people in trouble and their citizenship or whether it represents a continued diminished conception of social citizenship for children and young people. Throughout the paper I will question, is it right to impose such responsibilities upon children and young people; does the youth justice system pay sufficient attention to the uniquely vulnerable position of children in society or does youth justice law and policy have an unrealistic perception of youth and youth crime?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2013
EventWhat is Justice? Re-imagining penal policy - Keble College, Oxford
Duration: 2 Oct 2013 → …


ConferenceWhat is Justice? Re-imagining penal policy
Period2/10/13 → …


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